Net Notes: Rodgers gets the start

Traveling during the holidays is never easy. It is tougher when you have someone as demanding as Lute Olson waiting on you. Every year the Wildcats let their players venture home for the holidays and almost every year a player is late reporting back to town.

This year three players had travel difficulties, but only one actually missed practice. Starting point guard Mustafa Shakur was delayed coming back from Philadelphia and missed practice on Friday. Even though Shakur communicated with Olson the whole way, including a call on Christmas day to let Olson know of potential weather problems, Chris Rodgers will get the start at point guard against Liberty.

It is Olson's policy that players who are late getting back from Christmas break suffer some sort of penalty, even when it is not their fault. Some lose starting spots, while others have had to sit out an entire half. Olson would not indicate how long Shakur would be sitting on the pine.

"I'll surprise you," Olson laughed.

Both Jason Ranne and Hassan Adams were delayed in their travels but both made it in time for practice, missing only a film session. The two players made up the film study that night and will not suffer any penalties.

For Ranne it was weather that caused the problems. Although he was at the Tulsa airport at 7:30 in the morning, Ranne did not get to Tucson until almost 8 pm. Bad weather and a connection in Salt Lake City was the cause for the delay.

Adams' flight was delayed twice due to security measures. Heightened security at LAX left the Wildcat forward high and dry for several hours.

"It seems like it happens every year," Olson said.

Big man Ivan Radenovic will make his Arizona debut for the Wildcats. Olson said the Serbian will see a lot of time in an effort to get he and his teammates better accustomed to each other before league play starts next week.

"It's great to have Ivan" Olson said. "He obviously makes a big difference. We'll try to get Ivan as much time as we can get him."

Radenovic will sub for all three frontline players. When he spells Andre Iguodala, Adams will slide over to the small forward spot, his more natural position.

Olson praised the newest Wildcat for his intelligence and his ability to learn the system quickly. The biggest problem seems to be his new teammates' ability to anticipate his passes.

"He'll surprise them with his touch passes," Olson said.

Louisiana-Lafayette and Valparaiso make return trips to the Fiesta Bowl Classic. Valpo last played in the 2001 event, falling to the Cats 74-70 in a close contest. The Ragin' Cajuns played in the 2000 event, losing to Mississippi State in the first round.

Lafayette is coached by former Olson assistant Jessie Evans who coached with the Wildcats from 1988-1997. He left after helping the Cats win the '97 national championship. He's 115-75 since taking over the program at Louisana-Lafayette.

Olson said that the folks from Valpo were especially happy to return to the event. Olson said they were enthusiastic about playing again and he likes having a competitive mid-major in the field.

"They love it," Olson noted. "They're good people."

Wyoming was originally supposed to play in the event, but backed out late in the process. Arizona's Director of Basketball Operations, Ryan Hansen, had come to a verbal agreement with Wyoming, but they never signed the contracts and after a change in athletic directors the Cowboys decided not to play in the event. Liberty had an open date and quickly agreed to make the visit to Tucson.

Liberty has been trying to schedule better in an effort to improve its status in college basketball. It has already played Duke, Seton Hall, Iowa State and surprising Arkansas State. Although they are 0-4 against those schools, head coach Randy Dutton feels they are on the right track.

"We're committed to moving our program to that of a solid mid-major," Dutton said. "Just because we are 3-7 does not mean we're not successful with the schedule we have played."

Discuss this story on the BASKETBALL MESSAGE BOARD

Wildcat Authority Top Stories