Olson discusses Red/Blue Scrimmage

The Wildcats get ready for their annual Red/Blue Scrimmage which signifies that the regular season is just a few weeks away. Lute Olson spoke to the Tucson media to discuss the state of his team heading into the game.

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Opening Comments:

"Thursday, we'll have the Red-Blue Scrimmage, and we're still not exactly sure who is going to be on which team, but for right now one team will have Mustafa Shakur, Daniel Dillon, Marcus Williams, Ivan Radenovic, Mohamed Tangara and Kirk Walters.  Kirk will be back after practice today, hopefully he'll be able to go on Thursday [for at least part of the scrimmage].  The other team will have Chase [Budinger], J.P. [Prince], Fendi [Onobun], Bret [Brielmaier] and Jordan [Hill].  Primarily, it will be underclassmen against veterans, but we'll adjust that as we see practice today and tomorrow.  We'll probably use Jawann [McClellan] on both teams, and there may be some changing around over the course of the game.  It will be a good chance for them to be out there with regular officials, game uniforms and that kind of thing.  It has always been a valuable experience, especially for our young guys.

"With how things have been going right now, the biggest concern is on the defensive end.  We've been getting some very aggressive play on the perimeter from Mustafa, Marcus and Daniel.  We have a lot of other people who need to step up and play harder and more consistently.  We taped the scrimmage on Saturday, as we do all our practices, and the coaches then sit down and have sessions with individuals or two or three guys at a time.  I think that proved very valuable based on yesterday's practice; in terms of pressure on the ball and that kind of thing.  Right now, defense is a big focus and getting the consistency out of the inside is also a focus right now.

"Mohamed has been our best rebounder.  Fendi has done a nice job in that regard, as well as Jordan Hill, and Ivan, of course, with the four spot.

"We'll use the intra-squad Blue/Red on Thursday night, and we'll turn it around with a full scrimmage on Saturday to see the kind of conditioning we have, in terms of putting two games together in one week.  Of course, it will be more demanding than probably two regular games, because we'll be using all of our guys.  We'll try to have six guys on each team and try to rotate big guys with both teams.  It's going as well as can be expected. 

"The first couple weeks are always kind of good news-bad news.  The good news is our guy scored; the bad news is one of our guys was guarding him."

If the season started today, would Jawann McClellan be ready to play 25 minutes in a game?

"He'd be ready to go.  I wouldn't necessarily say 25 [minutes], I'd say 20 because the pace of the game and the demand defensively would be such right now that I don't think he'd be ready to go more than half the time."

Outside of when McClellan has been tired, has he played pretty well?

"Yeah, he has.  He played well on Saturday, but it also depends on who he is playing with.  He looked good with one group, and then he did not look good with another group.  When you're limited in the time you can be out there, your timing is not what it should be."

What about Fendi Onobun?

"We're keeping him completely at the four position.  We tried to have him at the three and four, but he has to become more comfortable at one position.  If that happens during the course of the year, we may take a look at him at the three, but we're deeper on the perimeter than we are at the four spot.  Fendi has always been a conscientious young man, and he's making really good progress.  When I look at the defensive charts from last Thursday and Friday and then from Saturday and Monday, you can see the improvement as he gains more confidence.  He is very quick to the ball and there are still some concepts defensively that he has to absorb, but we're pleased with what we've seen over the last week and a half.

"We're sorting that everyday in practice, but it will give us an opportunity to see them with regular officials.  On Saturday, we had some guys get in what would have been foul trouble really early in the game.  In regular game situations out there, we have to see if we can defend well without fouling.

"Generally speaking, they will a little bit.  The purpose of this is to help them deal with that (foul trouble), so we don't have to deal with it in a real game.  That's another reason why the exhibitions are really important to us.  They're playing against guys other than the ones they've been playing against in practice.  Hopefully with this and with the two exhibition games, we should have most of that out of their system.  It's always more difficult opening on the road, than at home.  I don't think any of those three would be the kind that would allow crowds or anything else to bother them.  That's a great thing about the veterans; they do everything they can to prepare them for what life will be like on the road."

What's the competition like in practice?

"There's a lot of competition from an offensive standpoint.  There are also some guys who are behind on the defensive end.  Frankly, that's what is going to make a difference of who's on the court.  Anyone who has been around here for any length of time, in particular the players, know that it's ‘defend or sit.'  The effort overall has been good, but it's not necessarily easy to stop some of the guys that we have.  On the other hand, if the guys will work hard at that and be able to slow down some of the people we have, we'll do well against other teams."

What kind of progress has Kirk Walters made?  How is coming back from an injury affecting him?

"Kirk has probably been in full-workouts for two days.  There's no question that is going to affect him.  However, he's been here for four years, so it's not going to affect him like a freshman.  If a freshman missed that much, he'd have a difficult time catching up during the entire year.  With a veteran, like Jawann, he understands what we want, and Kirk does too.  The biggest thing with both of them is the conditioning and the timing."

What is it like having Matt Brase on staff?

"It's good to have Matt because it's just like with Miles [Simon] and Josh [Pastner].  Matt understands what goes into this program.  He's a hard worker, he'll represent the program really well, and he has that pride of being a Wildcat.  It's not a case of him having to learn that.  That's also the case with Jesse [Mermuys].  He grew up here in Tucson, he was a big Arizona fan and graduated from the university.  Those jobs are very demanding time-wise, and I think they're both finding that out.  The reason that they were offered the job was obviously that we feel comfortable that they're going to put the effort in and put the time in.  You don't punch a clock around here, you stay until you get everything done.  I'm sure they both understand that.

"[Brase] has been a fan since he was two years old.  I remember seeing him just prior to when the teams came out to the bench, and seeing him crawling up to his mom.  He's been a U of A fan probably longer than anyone else out there."

What has the response been like for your new book?

"The response has been very heartening, as far as I'm concerned.  I've had emails from people from all around the country that they enjoyed the book because it's not a basketball book – it's a life story book.  The response that I've gotten is that it's a hard book to put down.  They've laughed a lot, they've used a lot of Kleenex.  The emotions and enjoyable things you go through in coaching and also the very difficult things that one goes through [are included].  The response has been very good.  At this point, I've signed between five and six thousand copies."

Do you have information on the CatWalk?

"November 5 we have the CatWalk.  A lot of time and effort has been put into the event.  We had a group from the Eller College that took it on as a project for marketing.  We also hired an individual to work on sponsorships and that kind of thing.  I met with a number of the head coaches here in the athletic department today.  We want to get as many of the teams here as possible to participate.  It's going to be a very fun afternoon and a very educational experience.  Wilbur and Wilma will be out there for the kids and all kinds of things.  There will be more information coming out as we near that date, but it's Sunday afternoon, November 5.  All proceeds will go to the Bobbi Olson Fund.


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