The biggest breakout star of the season was Marcus Williams. Williams led all Pac-10 freshmen in scoring and had a national coming out party in the season ending loss to Villanova. He quickly became a team leader, a role that intensified during Hassan Adams' suspension.
Williams had a good season, but has the potential to be so much better. He will add strength and I expect him to become a better outside shooter. Another year in the program should make him a better rebounder and defender, although he was solid at both.
He has drawn comparisons to Wildcat great Sean Elliott. While those are big shoes to fill, he is certainly has some of the same skills.
Maybe the biggest problem is that pro scouts love his game. While he has a long way to being ready to don an NBA uniform, he has the skills to get drafted. Right now he is probably only a second rounder, but ESPN has him rated as the fifth best small forward. While most expect him to return to school, it would not be a total shock to at least see him test the draft waters.
The Cats expected to have Jawann McClellan in the line-up this past season, but academics and injuries kept him out for all but two games. Wildcat coaches expect him to be granted a medical redshirt and the prospect of potentially having three more years of the talented wing is promising.
McClellan's past year was one that either makes or breaks a young man. In addition to the missed time he dealt with numerous personal setbacks. The most tragic was the sudden loss of his father to a heart attack. If that wasn't enough, he had a high school teammate arrested for murder and his family evacuated from their homes in Houston due to Hurricane Rita. McClellan came close to leaving the program over the summer but stuck it out only to suffer the wrist injury. Hopefully, he can return to the promising form that made him a McDonald's All-American.
The Cats are looking forward to add his outside shooting and good rebounding to the line-up. McClellan showed great improvement in the 2005 Pac-10 and NCAA Tournaments and the staff really expected him to be a huge contributor this past season.
Speaking of McDonald's All-Americans, Chase Budinger looks to be an instant impact player in his first year. The 6-8 wing has had Lute Olson raving since signing day. He's tall, athletic and has a great outside stroke. He should come in and push Williams and McClellan for minutes if the can pick up the system quickly.
Although Budinger has been billed by some as a player in the mold of fellow San Diegans Jud Buechler and Luke Walton, he is far more athletic. He's a smooth, explosive player who relies on athleticism far more than those other two former Wildcats. He's much more similar to a Ray Allen type, a player who has skills, but also is a great athlete as well.
Daniel Dillon should continue to be a defensive stopper off the bench. He needs to improve his offensive game, but supplanted Rodgers as the first guard off the bench and should again be a player the Cats can rely on when they need to be tough on defense. His outside shot was inconsistent, but he has nice form and it would be a shock if it is not at least a little bit better.
Fendi Onobun's best minutes may be at the four next year, but Olson has continued to stress that the combo guard will see time at the three. Onobun is an intriguing player because there are not many players like him in the Pac-10. With his combination of power and athleticism, he is more reminiscent of players that you see at Oklahoma State or Cincinnati(at least on the floor). If he can defend smaller wings and score from the outside, he could be a great option for the Cats.