Olson discusses Canada trip

The Wildcats head to Canada for their preseason tour. Five games in three days will keep the team busy. Lute Olson met with the media to discuss the trip and the challenges that it will provide.

Opening Statement

Olson: "The practices have been going well.  We'll have a final practice and scrimmage today.  Then we will leave tomorrow afternoon.  We ran into a little bit of a snag with Ivan Radenovic.  He did not get his visa, so he will not be accompanying us.


"Jawann McClellan will not play.  We are still holding him out to make sure that he is ready to go when practice starts in October.  But I think we have a date now around the 15th of September where he should be able to start playing pick-up games and individual workouts.


"Fendi Onobun, it doesn't appear that he will be able to play, but he will make the trip so that (athletic trainer) Justin Kokoskie can continue doing rehab on his knee.  He went down in practice, maybe a week or so ago.  The good thing is that there isn't any tear, but the other thing is there is a really severe bone bruise in the knee.  It's very painful.  The thing that kept it from being some kind of a tear was the fact that physically he is very well developed.  That kept it from being a serious knee injury.


"What we will be doing with the 20-minute halves that they play up there – the only difference is that it's international rules with a 30-second clock, which shouldn't affect us – we are going to play set teams, except when we get into foul problems or if somebody turns an ankle of something like that.  We are going with a veteran team, which will have Mustafa (Shakur), Daniel Dillon, Marcus (Williams), along with Kirk (Walters) and Bret (Brielmaier).  The other team will have Nic Wise, J.P. Prince, Chase (Budinger), Jordan (Hill) and Mohamed (Tangara).  David Bagga will be used on either team.  What we are planning on doing right now is we'll go with the veteran five minutes and the younger guys for five minutes.  There will be two rotations in the first half.  In the second half we will start the younger guys, so they will get the first and third segments and the veterans will go the second and fourth.


"Miles (Simon) has been handling the underclassmen and Coach Rosborough the upper classmen.  I'll be involved, obviously, with both, but they will be running their teams.  I'll be there to put in my two cents.


"If you are wondering about the five-game schedule:  One, we didn't want to miss any school.  On Monday we will play at nine in the morning so that we can catch an early afternoon flight so that we get the guys back here at a decent time on Monday night for their Tuesday morning classes.


"At this point in the workouts, probably the biggest surprise of anybody has been Jordan Hill.  He's played extremely well.  He's been our leading rebounder, leading shot blocker, highest percentage shooter.  We're not surprised by his ability, we knew that was there.  We thought with him having limited experience on the high school, it would take him a little bit longer.  He's very coachable, very focused.  It's not a case of having to tell him something twice.  It will be interesting to see how he performs up in Canada. 


"We have part of our offense installed.  We've kept it pretty basic, obviously, with only 10 practices to get things in.  Defensively, we've been trying to do some things to keep the tempo pretty fast so it will allow us to utilize our depth.


In retrospect, is this a better situation than what you would have experienced three months ago?

Olson: "This is a much better situation.  I think you will see a lot more Division I teams doing this because with the NCAA rules the way they are, you can't take freshmen with you if you go in May, June or July.  They have to be enrolled in the regular school session.  This also gives us a jump start on our season because once we come back we are allowed two hours a week with them.  They will be playing a lot of pick-up games on their own and it's really invaluable that those pick-up games will be of much greater value to us than they normally are."


Did you start these practices the same way you would have on Oct. 15?

Olson: "No.  With 10 practices to get to the point where we have some semblance of a zone offense, we've not broken it down anywhere near what we will come October.  At that point, we will have five or six weeks before the first games, so we'll be able to get everything broken down better than what we've done here.


"As far as our defense is concerned, we've started out with shell drills so we get pressure on the ball and people in support positions, help positions and deny positions.  We haven't been able to put the amount of time that we will in October for those things.  We have 11 returning guys and three freshmen, so when we went into the breakdowns, it was primarily for the freshmen and a review for the returning guys.


Do you envision mixing the lineup more in these workouts?

Olson: "We did in the first week, but all this week we had the teams together that will be playing up there so they get used to playing together.


"The biggest thing is that every position is extremely competitive.  That's going to allow for rapid improvement from our players because every day with the exception of one Marcus has gone against Chase, Nic against Mustafa, Daniel and J.P., Ivan and Jordan, and Kirk and Mohamed.  We've used Bret with both teams.  The competition has been fierce.  The intensity has been great.  I don't look for that to change during the course of the year.  We are definitely two deep at every position.  That's the best depth we've had in a long time – maybe ever."


What's the thinking behind playing the five-minute rotations?

Olson: "Because I want equal time for everybody.  This is a trip that we want to come back from with all of our players having had approximately equal time so that they know that the door is open for the lineups that we will play once we get into game situations in November.


"It's not set in stone.  We'll see as we go through this.  I don't want to be in a situation where someone is getting 30 minutes and someone is getting 10.  I think it's far too early for us to evaluate that."


Much has been made of Chase Budinger, but Nic Wise has played well to date:

Olson: "Nic has done really well.  He's our leading three-point shooter.  I think his percentage has been in the 50s.  He and Mustafa both have about 2 and a half to one on turnovers.  Defensively, Nic is physically strong and very quick.  He doesn't have the length, obviously, that Mustafa has but he's done a great job of finding the open man."


Have you played two games in one day on a trip like this?

Olson: "Not recently.  The first team we took over (to Europe in 1985) with Pete Williams and those guys we played in tournament in Dieppe, France, on the Normandy Coast and we played three games (May 25), I think.  The Soviet Union came.  There were some good teams that we played.  But they weren't full game times.  It may have been a40-minute running clock.  In essence, our guys are only going to be playing a half game anyway.  So by the time we finish the day it will be a full game situation."


Do you have mixed emotions about this trip compared to the possible European trip?

Olson: "I think the cultural experience in May and June would have been unbelievable.  It was going to be a case of getting to Belgrade, and I know Ivan would have enjoyed that.  We had it set up in Florence for a special tour, Venice.  In Rome we had a private tour given to us of the Vatican.


"It would have been a trip that I don't think the guys would have ever forgotten.  What happens on foreign trips is that after about three days the guys want to come home.  Five years later they will tell you it was the greatest trip they've ever taken.  The cultural experience they would have gotten would have been probably as good as they will have in their entire life.  By the time we got down to it, we had five scholarship guys and two walk-on that could make the trip.  We didn't have any options.  From a standpoint, this trip was much better because we could bring the freshman class."

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