Channing Frye averaged 15.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.1 blks, and shot 54.8% from the field (including 60% on threes – only shot 5 times, though), and 78.8% from the line. He got off to a slow start, but as the season progressed, he really started to pick up the level of his intensity. It really took until last year for him to figure out how to apply himself more forcefully out on the court, and he now has the physical strength to match his heart. His skills have always been advanced, and he is equally adept at scoring down low (with the capability of using either hand), nailing an automatic mid-range jumper, or occasionally stepping out and hitting his outside shots. This year he will be even more of a force, down low, since he has added more strength to his lower trunk and legs, which will allow him to hold his position down low with more effectiveness. In addition, he is very good at running the court. His defense and rebounding have been average for a man of his size and skill level, but his strength has increased to the point that he will probably be considered above average in both of those categories for this, his senior year. If that is the case, then he will contend for 1st team All-American honors.
Isaiah Fox averaged 8.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 blks, and shot 80% from the field, but only 50% from the line. Unfortunately, Isaiah played in only two games last year, before injuring himself for the rest of the year, so his stats are based on too limited of a sample to project over an entire year. Before getting injured, however, it was apparent that he had much greater mobility than as a freshman (after losing about 30 lbs of baby fat) and was just starting to show what he is capable of. He is very strong, but has yet to demonstrate that he knows how to use his strength effectively, and his poor jumping ability compromises his ability to score regularly down low. Most of his points will come from put backs.
Hassan Adams averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 blks, 1.5 steals, and shot 54.2% from the field (including 38.4% on threes), and 73.3% from the line. He played out of position last year, being forced to play the power forward slot, due to a rash of injuries and defections, so it is difficult to project what his numbers will be, playing at his more natural swing spot. He will, likely, score more, pass more, steal more, rebound less, and shoot a slightly lower percentage from the floor. His strengths are his unreal athletic ability (if there is a better athlete in the country, I haven't seen him), and his heart. As the season progressed, last year, his outside shooting really started rounding into form, and I would be very surprised if he did not shoot over 40% from the 3-point line this year. He can, sometimes, be overly aggressive in playing the passing lanes, and he needs to learn when the best times to gamble are, so as not to leave his man open too often, if he fails to get the steal. If he can use better judgment in that area, then he will be a "lock-down" defender, as his physical strength, leaping ability, and fierce determination are all already there. He could very well be the best swingman in the country this year.
Salim Stoudamire averaged 16.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and only 0.8 steals, while shooting 45.2% from the floor (including 41.5% from the three point line), and 79.5% from the line. This is the guy who will determine how far we go this year! When he is "on", he is a holy terror, and there is no one in the country who can stop him. More often than not, however, he has allowed himself to get into some pretty serious funks, to the detriment of his game and the team's. We are all guardedly optimistic that he has matured, and will dedicate himself to being the consistent force that he is capable of being. His shooting range extends as far out as anyone else in the country, and he is an excellent defender (even though he does not play the passing lanes that well, he has the ability to shut down his opponent). His ball-handling is average, and he needs to learn how to pass the ball better if he is going to make it at the next level, but he is capable of taking over a game (like when he scored 32 points in Allen Fieldhouse, against Kansas).
Mustafa Shakur averaged 9.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and only 0.6 steals, while shooting 51.9% from the field (including 39.6% from the three point line), and 80.3% of his free throws. This is the single player who projects to improve the most, from last season to this one. Some of this will be due to the fact that he is now a sophomore, and is much stronger than last year. The rest will come from the fact that he will be our primary ball handler this year, and will initiate the offense. Last year, the offense ran through Andre Iguodala, which is why Mustafa's assist average was as low as it was. I look for his assist average to be more in the range of 7.0+ this year, and I look for his scoring average to climb to about 14 points a game. His shot looks awkward, but he puts it through the hoop, and we look for him to be a 40%+ shooter from the 3-point line this year. He is capable of taking over a game, and will do that when the need arises, but he is very happy to distribute the ball as well. I look for him to be more aggressive this year, and that, combined with his increased strength, will move him into the upper echelon of point guards in the country. I believe that he is going to have a "break out" year, and will be in contention for All-American honors.
Mohammed Tangara is a freshman from Mali (in Africa) who comes in with the reputation of being a warrior underneath the boards. Lute Olson feels that this young man will take the unofficial title of "best rebounder ever, in a UA uniform" away from Pete Williams (the best rebounder that Lute has ever had here), and he is getting rave reviews for his unbelievable work ethic. He is 6'9" tall, and very athletic, but his offensive game is still raw, and he will probably get most of his points on put-backs.
Ivan Radenovic came in at mid-year, last year, as a freshman from Serbia (I think), and was overwhelmed with the speed of the American game. He is reputed to be much stronger this year, and should be much more confident out on the court (especially being able to go through all of the pre-season practices this year). His strengths are a very nice outside shooting touch, and a multitude of low post moves. The guy can definitely score! Last year, he was very weak on defense, and less than average on the boards (especially considering that he is 6'9" tall), but we look for great improvement in both of those areas this year.
Kirk Walters was overmatched last year, as a freshman, but the potential is there! He is 6'11" tall, and very quick on his feet, with great shot-blocking ability, but he came in very weak and was not much of a contributor last year. The word is that he has added 30 lbs in the off-season, and is looking much more aggressive in the pick-up games. Lute feels that he will play in the NBA, when all is said and done.
Chris Rodgers was our 6th man last year, and looks to continue in that capacity. He averaged 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 steals, while shooting 43.2% from the floor (including 42.2% from the three-point line), and 84.5% from the line. He can play any of the 3 perimeter positions, and is capable of being a "lock-down" defender, if he learns to apply himself more consistently. He is 6'3", and is very strong, with unbelievably quick hands. His weakness is immaturity, and we are all still unsure if he has "gotten it" yet.
Jawann McClellan will be our 6th man if Chris hasn't "gotten it." He comes in, billed as one of the top 3 outside shooters in high school last year, and is reputed to be a good defender as well. He led his high school team to an undefeated state championship in Texas last year, and is widely known as a "winner." At 6'6" tall, he can play either wing.
Jesus Verdejo comes in with the reputation of being fiercely competitive. He played at a prep school this past year, but comes from Puerto Rico, originally. He played on the Junior Olympic team for Puerto Rico, and is considered very mature for his age. He can shoot it from the outside (although he is known as a "streak shooter"), and is considered an excellent defender.
Daniel Dillon will be our back-up point guard, if Chris Rodgers has not matured. He is somewhat of a project, but he did play for the Australian Junior Olympic team, and many consider him to be the best young guard in Australia. He is reputed to be a "pass-first" type of player, with great athleticism.
This team could be the best one that we have ever had! It is loaded at every position, and is unbelievably athletic, across the board. We have 6 guys who can shoot it from the 3-point line, we have shot blockers, and we have good rebounders. The potential pitfall would be team-chemistry, since it was lacking last year. The capability is there to be an outstanding defensive team (perhaps the best that Lute has ever had), but the team will have to pull together better than they did last year, for that to happen. It will be a fast-breaking team that will be very difficult for any other team in the country to run with, and could average over 90 points a game this year. If a couple of the kids have gained the maturity that they lacked last year, and the team can come together, we look for another run at the national championship!
CatsLover is a frequent message board contributor and ,as you can guess by his screen name, a big Wildcat fan.