Big men making strides in the offseason

The Wildcats are already preparing for next season. Coaches are trying to get players to work on all aspects of their game, improving their deficiencies, while fine tuning the things they do well. We'll start with the big men and look at exactly what the coaches have seen from the players and what they need to work on.

With all but one key contributor coming back and a loaded recruiting class. Assistant coach Josh Pastner is already counting the days until next season begins. Players are working hard to get better, and that is especially true of the big men.

Pastner was most excited about Kirk Walters. The 6-11 freshman did not play much last year, but was pressed into service due to a lack of big men.

"Kirk is making great improvements," Pastner said. "He's working hard."

There had been talk about redshirting Walters, but people who have seen him in pick-up situations say that he may be just too good to sit out. He has worked hard in the weight room, but weight and strength could still be an issue.

Pastner is excited about what the future can bring from the youngster from Grand Rapids.

"He's got so much upside," Pastner said. "He has a chance to be really, really good."

Lute Olson recently compared him to Stanford's Matt Haryasz and is very pleased with what he has seen during and after the season from Walters.

"I think he's the same kind of athlete," Olson said. "He's got great hands. Much like when Matt started up there, there are things that need to develop confidence-wise. I think Kirk can do that. I think he's still growing, too."

Pastner was equally excited about Ivan Radenovic. He mentioned that Ivan too had been working hard and they were very pleased with his attitude. Radenovic is headed back home where he will compete with a Serbian National team in international competition. Whenever a foreign player heads home there is always a worry that he will not return, but Pastner said the team is not worried.

"He'll be back, we're not worried at all," Pastner said. "It's not the same situation as a Robertas Javtokis or some of the other guys who have turned pro. He has a different type of family. He wants to be here and his family wants to be here."

The Cats want him to continue to get stronger and work on his post game.

"With Ivan, it's a matter of strength," said Lute Olson.

The word on the other two big men is not as exciting, but that is because they have less to work on. Channing Frye is plugging along, lifting weights and just fine tuning his game. He has to work on constant aggressiveness and he's trying to improve his footwork and overall game.

Isaiah Fox has a bigger challenge, he has to get back into shape after missing nearly six months with a knee injury. We saw Fox not too long ago and he looks to be in great shape. He has done a terrific job of keeping weight off and has returned to the floor with a vengeance. The Cats would like him to work on his toughness and polish-up his offensive game. His greatest benefit will just be taking pressure off of Frye and being a leader on and off the floor.

Any discussion of the Wildcat big men cannot be complete without talking about incoming freshman Mohamed Tangara. Tangara is a beast on the boards, who will inject instant toughness to the front line. His offensive game needs work, but in a recent all-star game he showed that he can score a bit. He wasn't an offensive option at Mt. Zion Academy, but at the Derby Classic he 28 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

Tangara will be in Tucson for summer school to get adjusted to college life as well as his teammates.

Overall, the unit is solid and only getting better. It has a nice mix of athleticism and size. If all five players continue to progress, this could be one of the better units in the country.

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