Stoudamire and Rodgers: Should They Stay?

It seems a typical occurrence this time of year. As the semester comes to a close, members of the UA basketball team generally concerned about the prospect of playing time ponder the option of bolting from the program. Earlier this week rumors surfaced in regards to the future of Chris Rodgers and Salim Stoudamire. While they will ultimately determine their fate in this matter, it brings to light another question. Given their respective situations, should they stay or should they go?

Stoudamire and Rodgers have shown the ability to contribute in positive ways during their respective tenures in Tucson. And the Oregon natives have been detrimental as well.

Should Stoudamire go?: I feel like I'm in the vocal minority on this one. If you listen to the outpouring of opinion on local talk radio, Stoudamire has been compared to a cancer, and as such, he should be cut from the body to save the good of the whole. His well-publicized bouts with attitude in terms of body language have become the stuff of local lore. More than any other player on the Arizona roster, Stoudamire was held personally responsible for the team's struggles.

That said, I think there's every opportunity for Stoudamire to have a breakthrough campaign next season. He's one of the few players at the Division I level who can single-handedly take over a game. When Stoudamire's outside shot is clicking it's a thing of absolute beauty. But his play goes beyond the ability to successfully bomb from long range. Stoudamire has yet to consistently indicate he can play a complete game. That is, he can be an effective defender, or distributor on the offensive end.

Arizona Coach Lute Olson has routinely called Stoudamire his best on-ball defender. That's high praise, but when the shot struggles, his tenacity tends to evaporate and give way to the now familiar perfectionist sulk. If that happens, he's entirely ineffective. This season, the UA could do nothing to force Stoudamire to perform. Because of the dramatic lack of bench depth, Stoudamire was going to play regardless.

This year that won't be the case. He'll likely be pushed routinely by incoming freshman Jawann McClellan, so if Stoudamire should slip, a capable backup is waiting in the wings.

But I don't think that will happen if Stoudamire returns, because he has one chance to really make a good impression on the NBA: and that's to benefit the team by showing a well-rounded game in the structure of the offense. While not quite there, Stoudamire was developing an understanding of penetrate and dish, of dumping the rock down low and moving without the ball. Very often, he teamed with Channing Frye for the best two-man game on the team.

If Stoudamire returns, he's behind the eight ball. As a senior this is it. He must perform well or his chances of catching the eye of NBA scouts will be in danger. As a 6-2 shooting guard, he's already facing something of an uphill battle, but if he can show leadership tendencies and all-around skills his marketability will improve dramatically. If nothing else, he's a guard from the UA, and given the school's impressive track record that will hold a lot of weight.

Because of this, Stoudamire will be a model citizen. He has one year to suck it up and put on a good face, and I believe he'll do just that. It may be little more than an act, but the possibility of big dollars can change a lot of things. Simply put, if he decides to leave for a shot at the NBA (given his junior status, a transfer seems less likely), he'll probably hang himself out to dry. He just doesn't appear ready right now. He could be a lot more ready with one more year in this program.

I think if Stoudamire stays, the chances are good it will bode well for Stoudamire, and bode well for the UA.

Should Rodgers go?: If an Arizona guard considers transferring from the program, inevitably the name Jason Terry will be brought into the debate. Terry waited his turn behind Mike Bibby, a point guard who excelled his two years in the program. Finally, Terry got his opportunity to shine as a senior and exploded for monster numbers. Now he's making monster numbers in the NBA.

Some guards who left have floundered. More recently, others have had success. Ruben Douglas led his conference in scoring his senior season after transferring to New Mexico. Gilbert Arenas ran him out of the program, so Douglas opted for opportunities to the east. Arenas jumped ship after his sophomore season, so had he stayed Douglas would have seen more than his share of on-court time in an Arizona uniform. It wasn't a terrible move on Douglas' part, but one can argue whether the UA might have better prepared him for a professional career than his high-scoring stint in Albuquerque.

Will Bynum went from playing 20 minutes off the bench at Arizona to playing 20 minutes off the bench with Georgia Tech, but after hitting two monster shots in the NCAA tournament, it's hard to argue that his move was a negative one.

Historically, Arizona guards who could have left or did leave have been in a position to play more had they stayed. Injuries, teammate inconsistency, early departures for the Bigs, whatever the reason playing time has been more available than one might have initially anticipated. But predicting the future based on what's happened in the past can be a tricky thing.

Rodgers is indeed talented. He can be a tenacious defender and has shown the ability to drain open jumpers with some regularity. However, his comprehension of the offense seems to be suspect, even after two years in the program, and he falls in love with the dribble as opposed to moving the ball. These are not good traits for a player who wants to log some minutes at the point.

And unlike Bibby, who was all but guaranteed to leave after his sophomore season, there's no indication Mustafa Shakur will do the same thing. Add Arizona's pursuit of 05 point guard Mario Chalmers into the equation, not to mention the incoming addition of McClellan, Daniel Dillon and Jesus Verdejo, and it's hard to find 25 minutes of floor time for Rodgers.

On paper, he should be the first guard off the bench. Other than Stoudamire, he has the most backcourt experience in the program, and that is a significant benefit. Off the court, he's on track to graduate, although a transfer would probably not significantly hinder that accomplishment. Whereas Stoudamire will play if he just gets his act together, the future of Rodgers is a great deal more uncertain…

…Moving on…

…Days after the Stoudamire/Rodgers rumors reached a bubbling point, a hardcore Wildcat fan gave me a call and asked, "What's the skinny?"

Before he could proceed, I wanted to pose a question to him. "Why do they call it skinny," I inquired. I really have no idea. Seems a dumb synonym for inside information, but it's used all the time. Now this guy isn't a linguist by any stretch of the imagination, but he suggested, "Well, if you look at the meaning of the word skinny, it's skin and bones…"

Schu: "…So skinny would mean cutting through the fat. That makes sense." I was in a very agreeable mood.

Then he asked me to give a percentage on the chances of Rodgers and Stoudamire leaving. "Oh, 60 percent for Rodgers and 40 percent for Stoudamire, so what would that be for the two…" Mr. Hardcore: "…24 percent."

Schu: "How do you come up with 24 percent?"

Mr. Hardcore: "Easy….," and then he blabbed on about some mathematical formula that multiplies 40 and 60 against 100 and 100. Four times six is 24, so 24 percent they both leave.

When it comes to math I tend to nod my head. I was nodding on the phone quite a bit. The things you learn from hardcore Wildcat fans, or how dumb is Schu. I don't want to find out the mathematical calculation of that one, because it probably isn't pretty.

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