The good news is that Kirk Walters is coming off of the best season of his Wildcat career. The bad news is that last season he averaged only six points and 3.5 boards. Walters has been an enigma throughout his Arizona career. He has the size and leaping ability to be a strong shot blocking presence and rebounder, but has struggled doing either of those things in the past. Although it is his senior year, and the 'Cats are shooting for the title, the expectations for Walters are probably less than in past years. Lute Olson may have proclaimed him a future NBA player, but right now Wildcat fans are hoping for steady consistency.
The Wildcats have more scorers, better outside shooters, and stronger rebounders on the wing than in past. This means that Walters will be relied upon to be a defensive presence, block shots, get rebounds, finish at the rim, and to not turn the ball over. If Kirk can excel in any of those areas, then it would be of great benefit to this team. Rumor has it that Kirk has been challenged by freshman Jordan Hill in practices all preseason. That is not good news for Kirk. A senior should dominate a freshman every day of the week. Even worse, he has been slowed by a concussion for much of the preseason.
Walters has the ability, is categorized as a hard worker, and it is difficult not to root for him. Unfortunately, if he doesn't have a good season, then he will be best remembered for his ability to do "the worm" every year at McKale Madness.
Radenovic returns for his senior year as the undisputed front court leader of this Wildcat team. Although he is not a traditional "big man", the 6-10 power forward gets better at playing inside every year. Last season he averaged career highs with 12 points per contest and 6.3 boards in roughly 25 minutes per game. Although this team is loaded, look for Radenovic to maintain or probably better those numbers this year. He showed an improved all-around game during the Red-Blue scrimmage with a 35 point, ten rebound performance. I cannot recall a player in recent history who has improved more between his freshman and senior years than Radenovic.
Ivan will need to continue to rebound, and prove that he can defend stronger players in the post this season. The Wildcats will need him on the floor, and he will need to avoid foul trouble. He will probably spend more time scoring than distributing this season. Last year he was the "point forward" of sorts, and this year with Budinger probably taking that position, he will be more of a scoring threat. He has been categorized as one of the hardest workers on the team, and should have a type of senior year that will catapult him into the NBA draft.
The Mali native returns to Tucson in better physical shape than in years past. Mohamed has been plagued by back problems that sidelined him as a true freshman. Entering his third year in the program as a redshirt sophomore, the expectations for Mohamed are somewhat low. He has exhibited limited scoring range outside of five feet, and his had problems adapting to the college game. One thing that Mohamed does play with every time that he is on the court is determination. If he can keep out of foul trouble (a big if) and can manage turnovers, Mohamed has a future as a defensive stopper. He is strong and fights hard for every rebound. He could be a real benefit to this team off of the bench, as long as he can maintain control on the court.
Fendi Onobun has been moved to the post despite his height (6-6). Onobun has shown himself as a player willing to adapt. He came out of his redshirt at the half-way point of last season, and now is moving to a slightly new position on the floor. Coach Olson indicated that he saw Fendi's future in the program at the power forward position, and I look for Onobun to be built into the mold of Michael Wright, only a more athletic version.
Onobun has a phenomenal build, freakish athleticism, and has a consistent ability to score out to about 15 feet. If he can prove that he can rebound consistently and play strong defensively against players who are significantly taller than him, then Onobun should see a decent amount of playing time this season. There will be starting front-court positions opening up after this season because of the departures of Radenovic and Walters, and a strong campaign by Fendi this season could solidify a starting role for next year.
This freshman from Atlanta has impressed most everyone with his play in the preseason. He reminds many of Channing Frye and is pushing the older player for time. It is a little early to be saying that Hill will end up in the NBA in the next four years, however he certainly is the type of athletic big man that the Cats have had success with in recent history. He should have the opportunity to see the floor this year, and will be battling for the starting center spot on next year's team. Hill seemingly possess all of the physical tools, but just needs to refine his game.
Our utility man has a last name, its m-a-i-e-r! Is there a better feel good story on this team than Bret Brielmaier? The former walk-on had 10 points and eight boards in the first game of the NCAA Tournament last year and showed that he can be counted on to make the smart play and the hustle play every single time. His averages of 1.6 points and 1.9 boards last season are extremely misleading. Bret plays with great energy and intensity and brings an excellent level of intangibles to the floor. In this, his junior year, Bret will be a serviceable back-up and be counted upon during important stretches of the game for his defense, rebounding, and all-around intelligent game.