Practice shows glimpses of hoop squad's progress

The Arizona men's basketball team held an open practice for the media this afternoon, and Cat Tracks was on hand to catch all the action. Though it is still early, it is evident that this Arizona basketball team will be a much better team than last year with increased depth, a greater level of competition in practice, and most of all, team chemistry, all of which were missing from last season's 20-win squad.

This year's team appears to be more vocal with each other, yelling from all ends of the court. In addition, following good defensive stands or nice offensive moves, the players involved congratulated each other, and seemed to truly want the other to succeed.

Channing Frye shined in the practice with an increased strength and a definite improvement from last season. Frye was rebounding all over the place, getting both the easy and difficult put backs, running hard up and down the floor, and overall was the most solid player on the team.

Along with Frye, Salim Stoudamire's attitude showed a definite improvement which was apparent during the scrimmage. Stoudamire was not pouting at all and was found to be vocal. He took very good shots and was passing the ball a great deal.

Isaiah Fox appeared to be somewhat bothered by his knee and was forced to leave practice somewhat early in order to ice it down. However, when he was playing he was shooting the ball well and was very aggressive on the boards, an element missing from last year's team. He did miss some time at the end of the practice, choosing to ice his knees.

Despite the veterans improvements and experience on the floor, the player who really shined was Jawann McClellan. McClelland hustled hard in all aspects of his game. This hustle was clearly shown and should provide motivation for the rest of the players.

Being covered by Hassan Adams, McClellan has been challenged and has been having trouble getting up high enough to shoot over Adams. However he has the unique ability to look at it as an opportunity to get better and not get down on himself.

When McClellan was driving in for a lay-up that got blocked from behind by Adams, he did not pout or get agitated. Rather he laughed it off and realized that a change needed to be made, and Olson did not let it escape his attention.

Mustafa Shakur also had a strong outing during the scrimmage leading the offense well, and was clearly a team leader. Shakur was very vocal out on the court and it seems as though he worked on his ability to speak up during practice.

While many were playing well, there were a few aspects that seemed to be a little off. First, the team seemed to shoot the three-pointer too much. If there was one thing that was learned last year, it is that the three-pointer is not as important as it seems. The last thing Arizona should do is become a three-point shooting team because it can create disappointing results.

Secondly, Jesus Verdejo appeared to shoot without looking for the pass first. While most of the time he would make the shot, it is important to see the player pass the ball and look for the open man rather than forcing up a shot.

Mohamed Tangara was held out of the practice session while being treated for his lower back injury. He was able to get through some shooting drills and took some time on his own after practice to do some light jogging with the team trainer watching.

Throughout the practice, fundamentals were stressed. During the scrimmage all of the coaches were responsible for specific players and would yell out to each of them. Strong passes and quick cuts were among those things stressed.

During the practice, one thing was clear. This team is going to pride itself on fundamentals and look to shoot the mid-range jumper well. Following the scrimmage was a mid-range shooting drill. Catch-and-shoot was the name of the game and Arizona looks to succeed from this.

Photos by Carl F. Shifflette III


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