However, instead of reverting to his old ways, Stoudamire finally accepted what it was he had to improve upon. Not his play within the lines, but his mental approach to the game. Once done, he was a terror, and the natural ability took care of itself. Consider the attitudes toward Stoudamire at the beginning of the year. And then match those with his actual value to the team. As a result of his fabulous senior season, Stoudamire leaves Arizona in a favorable light, and his on-court exploits—the game-winners against UCLA, ASU and Oklahoma State; the record setting three-point shooting displays, his McKale Senior Day swan song—will be fondly remembered for years to come.
Rightfully so. And he will always rank at or near the top in terms of great Wildcat shooters. Along with Steve Kerr, Stoudamire is the model by which future UA long-distance dynamos will be compared.
But shooters like Stoudamire don't come along very often, so players who follow can better benefit from another legacy. Once Stoudamire got his act together—and it was a three-year process—the rest fell into place. He was on the outs. This is the lesson Stoudamire can pass along to future Wildcats in similar circumstances. If he made the step, they can too.
There's are two cases on the current roster who might benefit from following the Stoudamire model: Chris Rodgers and Mustafa Shakur. Rodgers has been reluctant to buy into the system since his arrival, and as a result he's been wildly inconsistent. Still, there's no mistaking he's a talented athlete who has one final opportunity to blossom in the Arizona system. Just as Stoudamire did.
Shakur is a slightly different situation. He's never had an issue with his role in the system, and he's never been in any real trouble, but he's much more comfortable yielding to others within that format. By taking a backseat to Stoudamire, Hassan Adams and Channing Frye, Shakur often became the point guard who rarely touched the ball in halfcourt sets, and that led to bouts of inconsistency. Indeed, it appeared Shakur endured something of a sophomore slump, so much so that he became the whipping boy for Arizona ills. He'll be saddled with that image throughout the off-season, and unconvinced fans will watch his development closely as the UA rebuilds in 06.
Shakur will be instrumental in that challenge. Sure, he was a force for most of the Illinois game, but he was the focal point of significant struggles in the UA's Elite Eight meltdown. Certainly, there was more than enough blame to go around, but Shakur has been sort of the frontman for fan discontent. His mental stability will be severely tested in the off-season, just as Stoudamire's was between his junior and senior year. At some point, Arizona coach Lute Olson will insist to Shakur that he play a more important role in the offense. It could be a conversation similar to the one Olson had with Stoudamire that led to the senior's offensive exploits. It will be up to Shakur to respond as Stoudamire did.
While the psychological issues are different for Stoudamire, Rodgers and Shakur, the returning backcourt mates can learn a great deal from the mental growth accrued by the departing senior.