Schu Strings: Walton is my pick

Last week, the little Schu rant included snide commentary on the Coach of the Year balloting, and the odd exclusion of Arizona Coach Lute Olson from that list. At the end of the piece, however, I made a promise, a vow if you will. And that vow was to suggest Luke Walton should be considered for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors.

I consider myself a guy who follows through on his promises, his vows, if you will. That is, if I remember them.
Since Arizona's first meeting with USC at McKale Center, Luke Walton, yes, Luke Walton, has taken over the reins as the UA's main option on the offensive end. And since that time he has delivered, averaging 20 points over the course of the last eight games. As such, the UA has become a great deal more versatile on the offensive end of the floor. It is well documented that Walton, a sort-of all-around 70s throwback basketball player from an era when fundamentals were actually the crux of success, can do many things. He can drive to the lane, he uses his body to garner position, he is probably the best passing big man in the country…but he has been hampered with an ineffective shot.

Well, that has changed, and when open from the top of the key, Walton has shown consistency from his long-range jumper.

In short, if that shot falls, Walton becomes not just one of the more dangerous offensive threats in the Pac-10, but in the country. As a result, when all the pieces fall into place, with Walton as the fulcrum, the UA offense has gone from occasionally one-dimensional, as was the case when Jason Gardner was forced to carry the load, to one with numerous scoring options.

Walton is capable of drawing defenders, then dishing to any of four other scoring threats: Gardner, Salim Stoudamire or Rick Anderson on the outside, or Channing Frye in the paint. That gives Arizona dangerous versatility on the offensive end. Thus, if the UA can shore up its defense, it could be poised to cause serious problems come tournament time.

An opponent's strategy has changed as well. Earlier, teams focused on exclusively on making Gardner work for his points. Now, Walton is the center of attention. He has played his way into almost certain first-team all-conference status, and will certainly earn consideration from the league coaches for player of the year.

Obviously, with USC's Sam Clancy and Stanford's Casey Jacobsen in the mix, Walton is a darkhorse at best for the honor. But given the position he started at the onset of the season, it is a testament to his continued improvement.

Onto other notes, I just don't get this figure skating thing. Thursday morning, Martha Stewart's on the TV. Now before you think I'm a home improvement or closet cooking guru, I have to say there's a perfectly legitimate reason as to why the diva of decoration was occupying my television screen, but I won't bore you with that here. Anyway, NBC breaks in for a special report, and it's none other than Brian "The World is coming to an end so make preparations for the Apocalypse Now" Williams. Now I'm thinking, "ooh, major happenings overseas in the War on Terrorism." But what do I hear? Williams, in that "everything is the most important story in the history of Mankind (not to be confused with Mick Foley, the former wrestler)" voice telling me the Canadian figure skating duo has been awarded a second gold medal. And you interrupted Martha's marble paper design display for that? Lo, the frustration. Lo, the seriousness. Lo, the Olympics. Lo, NBC. Lo, my love of using the word Lo.

I have friends visiting this week. They live in Salt Lake City and figured it might be nice to get out of town during the excitement. They've given me nothing but grief for sitting on the porch of my apartment and watching the Olympic torch go by. But now I have material for an answering salvo. Apparently, they watched two hours worth of Curling the other night. Curling? Now why doesn't Brian Williams (not to be confused with the former UA basketball player who once adorned the same nomenclature) break into Martha for updates on that. It's glorified shuffleboard, for goodness sake. I have a never-used shuffleboard court (are they called courts?) in the apartment courtyard. Maybe I can make the Olympics one day.

In conclusion, if you get a chance, pick up an issue of Cat Tracks Magazine this week. No, it isn't a cheap pop. But you might get a chuckle out of Brad Allis' Letter from the Editor. In it, he basically bemoans the horrors of turning 29. Lo, the horrors of 29. I kid you not. Lo, the horrors indeed. I lo'd, then laughed rather heartily.

I suspect Brad will fire me now. Lo, the unemployment.

EDITORS NOTE: Schu was not fired, he works too cheap to get rid of. However, if Schu wasn't so old, he'd note that not only did I make fun of my lamenting over turning 29, but I spent most of the column talking about how much I love Arizona sports, not my age. When you get to Schu's age, your short-term memomry apparently goes. BTW, Schu had a birthday this month as well, send your Godzilla toys and cases of RC Cola to Cat Tracks and we'll pass them on to Schu---BRAD

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