Schu String: Just a few rants

In the battle for Wildcat survival, two Arizona basketball players find themselves on the edge. Thus, while the UA's three-week trek can benefit every member of the basketball team, from a future-playing standpoint it carries extra weight for Andrew Zahn and Dennis Latimore.

Zahn and Latmore, both sophomores, found themselves on the wrong end of Arizona Coach Lute Olson's numbers rotation game last season, and if improvement isn't illustrated over the course of the next three weeks, those two performers specifically, might have a hard time making serious on-court contributions in the time to come.

For Latimore, it seems potentially an issue of time and patience. After all, he has spent just one year in the program, and given the rapid turnover in Division I college basketball, and the demands to perform well the second one steps onto the floor, it's easy to forget that indeed, it has just been one year. Freshmen make mistakes. And freshmen have the opportunity to grow, to understand, to improve, to contribute. Latimore's high school playing career probably wasn't the greatest benefit. He bounced around from programs in Mesa, Ariz., and Halstead, Kansas, before making the big jump to elite Division I college basketball. It's an adjustment some can make better than others, and it appeared the adjustment frustrated the obviously physically gifted Latimore on a number of occasions. But the tools are certainly there. If Latimore can understand what's expected, and deliver, he has the necessary elements to be a big factor in Arizona basketball next year, and in years to come.

Zahn's situation is more critical. That is, if he wants to be a major contributor in the program. He is a great physical specimen as well, with good height and bulk. He appears capable of running the floor, of showing offensive skills, etc. But he was relegated to also-ran and looks in danger of being pinched out of the main rotation all but permanently unless he can show vast improvement in Australia.

Zahn should be more advanced than last year's trio of freshman frontline players. While technically in the same class, he has a redshirt year, and as such, another season of tutoring under his belt. That should have been a great benefit, but it never was. Zahn saw himself lower on the ladder from the first day of practice, and he's been unable to catch up since.

If Zahn wants to contribute significantly to Arizona's future, then this is his time. Australia is his venue. If he comes up short, it might be his last window of opportunity.

Onto other fronts, I would like to personally applaud the continued brilliance of the NCAA. Once again, the greatest dictatorial organization on the planet, bless them, has taken it upon itself to give the little conferences a chance at the big-time by shipping every Pac-10 softball team to another regional location, instead of allowing them to host at home, even though, as usual, the Pac-10 had the nation's best performing teams throughout the course of the regular season.

As a result, Arizona, ranked anywhere from 2 to 5 for most of the season, lands a No. 1 seed, but travels to Minnesota for Regional competition. It's the first time the UA has not hosted a Regional since 1996.

But it gets better. UCLA, the odds-on favorite to win the title, gets to make a neat trip to Columbia, South Carolina, as that region's No. 1 seed. Washington is the No. 1 seed in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Since UCLA, Arizona and Washington are arguably the nation's three best teams this year, it's a logical bet they'll do well in regional play regardless of the location, but it's moves like this, even though minor in the great scheme of things, that does nothing to improve the NCAA's image as a bunch of out-of-touch Ivory Tower Dunderheads. (I have waited years to put the word dunderhead into a Schu Strings. Oh happy days). Speaking of out-of-touch dunderheads, UA President Peter Likins appears well on his way. You should probably be warned. I'm about to rant. And it's not a sports related rant.

OK. I really thought highly of Likins until a few months ago when he tried to generate sympathy for yet another tuition increase to curtail the University's looming budget woes, at which point it seemed curious to me that he never seemed interested in assisting the students' concerns during the so-called prosperous times of the 90s.

But that is a sidenote. Likins really outdid himself last week when he gave credence to a fringe minority movement upset at the UA graduation practice of throwing tortillas. He argued, as did the upset representatives, that it was offensive to members of the Hispanic culture and also wasted food. The attempted crackdown met with its share of resistance, as tortilla tossing remained prevalent at the ceremonies. I have never been more proud of UA graduates than in this instance. I may not understand the pertinence of this tradition, and as my friend Gabe says, tradition in and of itself is not a defense, but it is asinine complaining like this that makes minority groups come off as absolute whiners, and ultimately does more harm than good. To attempt to create a controversy out of tortilla tossing is laughable, but it happened.

It's the Peter Wolf syndrome (no, wait, he was the lead singer of the J. Geils Band, so it has nothing to do with Peter Wolf). It's the Boy Who Cried Wolf. The next time a real discrimination issue arises, these people might be brushed off as the whiners who complained about tossed tortillas. And if that happens, it's their own damn fault.

And before that group, and Likins, attempts to argue the merits of saving food, perhaps they could look closer at their own house. The eateries at the Student Union throw away more food every day than the amount of tortillas launched in the history of this UA graduation tradition.

On yet another note, when Roy Drachman died a few months ago, I mentioned to a friend that Joe Bonnano couldn't be far behind. While they had no connection to one another, they seemed to me to Yin and Yang. One couldn't exist without the other. Bonnano, one of the leaders of the original five crime families, passed away over the weekend at age 97. While out of the spotlight for decades, he remained a great story of character for Tucson. It was somehow cool to have a mob boss in your backyard.

[Editor's Note: Schu lives in and apartment and doesn't actually have a backyard, but I'm sure he'd love to have a mob boss on his balcony.]

E-mail Schu at:

Wildcat Authority Top Stories