The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

For what it is worth, I have been a rabid basketball fan since I can remember. I went to my first Arizona Wildcats game before I was old enough to walk. To me, there is nothing in the world like the electricity of a basketball season. This certainly does not qualify me as an expert at projecting the future of a team based on a late night scrimmage. However, a few things became strikingly apparent at "McKale Madness", lots of them good, some things bad, and even a few ugly things.

THE GOOD:

Hassan Adams is back and that is a phenomenal thing. He looks physically superior to anyone on the court and the other night he showed confidence in his improved range. With the loss of Salim Stoudamire the Wildcats will rely on a 3-ball by committee, and Hassan's jumper definitely looks better. There is no reason that he shouldn't be a serviceable shooter this year. Hassan brings a level of athleticism and intensity to the floor that is unparalleled by anyone. I think it is unquestionable who the leader of this team will be, just by having watched one scrimmage. Mustafa defaulted to Hassan in the 20 minute practice like he defaulted to Salim Stoudamire last year.

Hassan was unable to really show his ability to put the ball on the floor. Obviously floor spacing was not of the utmost concern to guys, but he was unable to take his man off of the dribble and successfully convert (if I am remembering correctly). His ball handing looked improved, but I still am yet to see him consistently blow past people off of the dribble drive. I think that he is capable of it, and I hope that he develops this part of this game before the season starts. His mid-range game is solid, so he definitely has that to fall back on.

The Freshmen:
The freshman also make "the good" category. Marcus Williams and J.P. Prince will need to hit the weights quickly, but they certainly do not lack confidence. Marcus Williams is a pure scorer. He can score in so many ways, and his jump shot is pure. He is as thin as a rail, but is not afraid to take it into the lane hard. Of all the freshmen, Williams shined especially bright last night, effectively taking his man to the hole, converting on pull-up jumpers, and showing accuracy from deep.

J.P. Prince will cause serious match-up problems. He is as "long" a player as his cousin Tayshaun (or at least he looks that way on the court). Imagining him at the top of a 1-3-1 defense should make the coaching staff salivate. He was not afraid to get into the lane last night and scrap for rebounds which is a great thing. His shot looks awkward and it will be interesting to see whether the coaching staff decides to try to "fix" it.

Fendi Onobun is a beast. He has no fear of anyone on the court, and although he didn't really have a chance to reveal it in the scrimmage, I have to believe that he is a strong player from 10 feet in. He looks like he could be a football player, and he plays with the swagger of a warrior. He could become a fan favorite real quickly.

Also notably "good" were the shooters and the big men last night. Jesus Verdejo has a jump shot. Daniel Dillon has a jump shot, Chris Rodgers, after an off-season full of shooting drills, could be the best shooter on the squad. Ivan Radenovic has range and will probably roam the perimeter like Ricky Anderson did to free the lane for Hassan to dominate. Even Adams himself looked decent from deep last night.

I doubt that the Cats will shoot anyone out of the gym this year, but they are good enough from deep to force defenses to be honest, which is all that a team really needs. Jesus will probably be a great spark-plug off the bench. If he can continue to show confidence in his jump shot and over-all game we should see a lot of him this year. He could be the "most improved" player on the team.

Isaiah Fox, Kirk Walters, and Mohamed Tangara all looked solid last night. I almost choked on my hot dog when Isaiah Fox got up on the break and threw it down. He is, without a doubt, in much better shape than he has shown in a long while. He also showed a solid midrange game. Tangara didn't have a chance to show much last night because he didn't get his hands on the ball often. He is built for rebounding, and should be able to make a difference down low for the 'Cats on the boards, and as well defensively.

Walters looked very smooth last night. He could be as good as Channing was with his midrange game, as long as he stays confident. He didn't really show off any post moves last night, but he looks to be in great shape, and will surprise people with his athleticism and sweet shooting touch this year. He has big shoes to fill, but I would bet anything that he has moments of brilliance this year.

THE BAD:

This team needs Jawann McClellan. He is able to create for himself off of the dribble, which is the one real question that I have about this team. I don't think that the 'Cats will necessarily struggle without him early because they are so loaded with wings. If the 'Cats are going to make a push for the Final Four, though, Jawann will be a serious part of the equation. When he returns to the line-up he will probably lead the team in scoring with Hassan Adams. McClellan has a game that is multi-faceted, and the Wildcats need a player who can single-handedly beat defenses in a variety of ways.

It isn't really fair to put Mustafa Shakur in the "bad" category, but I am going to. He has shown that he will bring the ball down the court and immediately look to his go to guy. He did it with Salim and Channing last year, and he showed the same timidity last night. Mustafa has an NBA first step. He can get in the lane on almost any defender that he is matched-up with, and he is one of the better finishers on the squad. However, defenses sag against him because "A", they know where the ball is going every time, and "B" because he really hasn't shown any jump shot, which certainly brings this list to the "Ugly" portion.

THE UGLY

I am not asking this to be inflammatory, although I will probably come off that way. How is it possible that a player's jump shot get progressively worse over 3 years? Mustafa showed the same release point on his jumper that I had in fourth grade when I wasn't strong enough to get the ball to the hoop. He releases the ball at least a foot lower than Miles Simon used to, and he is going to have serious problems this year getting his jumper off against good defenders.

A low release point leaves a player open to be swiped, swatted, and doesn't allow for consistency. I am utterly dumbstruck when I see him shoot the ball. I do believe people when they tell me that he is one of the hardest workers on the team, and that is why it irks me to see his jump shot look so goofy. I hope that the coaching staff makes a serious effort over the next few weeks to improve the look of that jumper. Otherwise, teams will continue to sag back on defense and clog the lane against one of the better penetrators in college hoops.

Also "Ugly" were the fans. There was a good crowd, but it was not loud and crazy. I was embarrassed that my friends were their to see it. I really don't have a suggestion for making the event more lively, but it could not have been a successful night in regards to recruiting atmosphere. There were big prospects at the game and I am sure that they couldn't have been wowed. I believe that the crowd should be ashamed and disgusted. The only time that the crowd got loud was when a cheer leader came by with a free tee-shirt to give away.

I am seriously contemplating a solution to this "only make noise for free shirts" crowd. I am going to print 1000 shirts that say, "I only make noise for free things", and then, as the fans leave the arena, throw these shirts onto the mall. As the fans scream and kick with all their collective lives for a free shirt that cost $1.00 to make, I will drop a net on them. What I will do with then, once they have been "netted", is I will force them to watch a video screen of a basketball game with "Cheer Now" prompter signs by the screen, like the ones that they use for syndicated comedy shows and late night with Jay Leno.

Maybe I am being a tad harsh here but I was shocked by the lack of energy. Hopefully things will be better with the new student section.


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