Canada trip shows some glimpses of the future

The Wildcats are back from their three-day, five-game tour of Canada. The Cats got a sneak peak at this year's edition of the team, but it was not a complete look as the entire team was not able to fully participate.

The Wildcats originally were supposed to go to Europe over the summer but injuries and the uncertainty of a couple of players looking at the pros forced the Cats to reschedule. Although the longer tour of Europe would have been better from a competition and bonding standpoint, the Canada tour may prove to be better for this team. Not only did the Wildcats get to take their three incoming freshmen, but they got 10 extra practices in August, over a month and a half early than the normal start of practice.

"The biggest positive thing is the 10 extra practices," said assistant coach Josh Pastner. "That was the best thing for us."

The Wildcats went 5-0 on the tour with mixed results in terms of competitiveness and effort. They let some of the teams stay with them far too long, but just getting on the floor early will pay dividends, regardless at performance.

"We got some things to take home and show them," Pastner noted.

Two very pleasant surprises have been the play of Daniel Dillon and Bret Brielmaier. Dillon led the team in scoring with a 12.4 ppg average and was also the leading three point shooter making 10-19 threes, a 52.6% clip.

Our best overall player was Daniel Dillon," Pastner said. "He's become a really good player. He's rebounding and defending like crazy. He's shooting the ball really well and just playing under control."

Dillon played two-guard next to Mustafa Shakur and seemed to really benefit from having the play maker in the backcourt with him.

Bret Brielmaier also played very well. With Ivan Radenovic sitting at home due to visa problems and Fendi Onobun nursing an injured knee, Brielmaier got extra time and took advantage. Brielmaier averaged 10 points a game and over five rebounds. He had one 24-point night where he was 9-10 from the field. Lute Olson was critical of some of the other big men to the traveling media and was quick to praise Brielmaier's work ethic. It is not a stretch to think that the former walk-on can use the performance up north to springboard into the regular season and continue to steal minutes from the taller, higher recruited players.

While Dillon and Brielmaier looked very good, two other players seemed to struggle a bit. Kirk Walters just did not dominate like he should against smaller players. He averaged 6.4 points and only 3.6 rebounds a game. He did a decent job getting to the line but still needs to play more aggressive. The smaller Canadian front lines should have had him smelling blood in the water.

J.P. Prince's numbers were not overwhelming. He shared the backcourt with freshman Nic Wise, which might explain why he averaged only two assists a game, but his scoring was not where you'd like to see it. He shot just 32.4% from the field, 26.7% from behind the arc and a paltry 16.7% from the stripe. Some close to the team have said that Prince has more raw talent than anyone on the team but has yet to put it all together.

Marcus Williams played solid, good basketball. He did not take over games, like he probably will during the season, but he shot well and rebounded very well.

The three freshmen all looked good, at least when they played. Chase Budinger only played the first two games before getting sick and basically being confined to the hotel room.

Nic Wise averaged 10 points a game and had a 21-point outburst. He was second on the team in three-point attempts (17) but hit just 29% of those shots. His assist numbers were also a bit lower than you'd expect, but overall Wise tried to get teammates involved.

Jordan Hill has been the talk of practice and continued to play well in game situations. Hill, who is still raw offensively, shot over 50% from the field and was very good on the boards, ripping down over five a game. Most assumed he'd redshirt when the Cats signed him, but he's now looking like a player who could steal minutes this year.

As good as Brielmaier and Hill were on the boards, Mohamed Tangara was right there with them. The sophomore big man pulled down just under six a game, including one 11 rebound game, and looked more comfortable on the offensive end where he shot over 56% from the field. Mustafa Shakur led the team in assists, which is what you need to see from a senior point guard and took care of the ball very well. What Shakur did very well was get to the line. His 20 foul shots led the team and indicates that he will be aggressive in attacking the hoop.

Onobun was limited due to a knee injury, but did see action in two games. Jawann McClellan was not allowed to play as he is still rehabbing a knee injury. Before the trip he felt that he could be cleared within a few weeks of getting back to town. Radenovic did not make the trip because he could not clear up visa issues.


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