Freshmen Impress but Vets Dominate Weds. Pickup

Never (not with Jefferson, Wright, Douglas, Anderson and Walton, not with Gardner and Arenas and not with Dickerson and Simon) has there been a crop of freshmen like the one Arizona has hauled in for this 2002-03 season. And we haven't even seen Chris Dunn yet. Yet, even with the impressive debuts from the frosh, it was still the "Jason and Luke Show" most of the night.

Actually, let's do the stats from tonight. The teams in all eight games (games went up to seven, straight up--all baskets worth one point (but for stat reasons, I did them for real) were as follow:
Team "National":
*Jason Gardner
*Andre Iguodala
*Luke Walton
*Chris Walton
*Johnny Walk-on (thanks, Brad) -vs.-

Team "Championship":
*Chris Rodgers
*Hassan Adams
*Dennis Latimore
*Channing Frye
*Some guy who talked trash the entire time but doesn't ever do anything himself.

As expected, Gardner and Walton's team pretty much dominated, winning all but one or two games (they left the floor early).

Here are the individual numbers (Box Score):
*Jason Gardner-29 points, 4 assists (13-22FG; 3-8 3s)
*Andre Iguodala-27 pts, 9 rebs, 4 asts, 8 stls (13-17; 1-3), six dunks.
*Luke Walton-19 pts, 13 rebs, 7 asts, 5 stls (9-13; 1-3)
*Chris Walton-26 pts, 5 rebs, 3 asts, 5 stls (12-23; 2-5)

*Chris Rodgers-29 pts, 5 rebs, 4 asts, 4 stls (11-18; 7-12)
*Hassan Adams-22 pts, 5 rebs, 2 asts, 3 stls (10-20; 2-5), four dunks.
*Dennis Latimore-9 pts, 5 rebs (4-10; 1-2)
*Channing Frye-20 pts, 13 rebs, 9 blks (9-20; 2-4)

Impressions:
*Andre Iguodala is the best ready-to-contribute Freshman wing player that Arizona has had since Sean Elliott. He EXPLODES down the court in transition, finishes nearly impossible, acrobatic lay-ins in traffic, dunks like a crazy man and plays "D" like a Demon. If he improves his outside shot, he'll be a 1st team All-American at some point. You heard it here first. He will be the next RJ in terms of alley-oops and new offensive possibilities.

*Hassan Adams has pure athleticism and hops like no one at Arizona before him and I mean that literally. He just kinda stands there and then--BOOM!--his eyes are level with the rim. He needs an 11-foot rim for a challenge. His shot is very nice, great lift and super backspin for a soft touch. This is the guy to watch on a fast break because he's RJ but more explosive in terms of jumping ability (hard to believe but many there tonight will attest to this claim).

*Chris Rodgers is a star! I thought I was glad to see that he'd be coming just for his sake but now I'm glad for all of our sakes! He's a scorer, do not confuse him with a "pure" point guard. He has the ballhandling ability and court sense to play the one but his strength is filling it up on the score board. He is a very good outside shooter (made seven treys tonight) and can get to the rim as well. He is very, very UNDERRATED! Count yourself lucky that he's here because no way Arizona could have made up for his loss with someone "better".

*Jason Gardner, I think, got mad at Rodgers for stealing a ball from him early on in the game and then decided to show the freshman who the senior All-American was because he blew by him at will. Simply put, if Jason doesn't win the NCAA Player of the Year, he'll be top three. He hits from deep, mid-range and gets to the hoop. Now that he has Iggy and Hassan, he will get more assists on lobs, too.

*Luke Walton still does everything well (very well). The synergy he and his brother have together on the court is amazing. He made Chris look like SDSU got a steal from the Pac-10. Walton played a lot of D on Latimore and Frye and more than held his own. Plus, he's developed a quick, step-back 15-18-footer that is what scouts call "professional material". America's most versatile player is even better (and stronger!) in 2003.

*Channing Frye is bigger, stronger and more agressive. Actually, he is much more aggressive. He catches the ball and immediately makes his move. He now tries to dunk on people, which is a great sign, and he gets mad when he's unsuccessful, whereas last year he was just a little frustrated. Now it's personal. Pac-10's best center and maybe one of the top three in the nation also.

**[Quick break. This might sound like I'm homering it to death or being hyperbolic but seriously, I am not!]**

*Dennis Latimore-Ripped! Has shed weight but got bigger, if that makes sense. Now he's flat out huge and about as strong as it gets. He still gets himself in bad situations going into the lane where he gets the ball taken or his shot blocked but he had one move where he caught the ball, turned, took a hop-step, jumped and dunked emphatically over both Walton brothers. Very impressive. Still needs time and development, though.

*Chris Walton-I was very impressed with his game. Some guy that was on the other team didn't like him much apparently (probably because he outplayed him like I outplay my two-year-old sister in a game of 21...and I don't even have a sister!) and as the game ended he said, "That's San Diego State for you!" Implying that Chris was just a scrub at some third-rate nothing of a school. I think SDSU has a gem in Chris Walton.

*Highlights of the night:
--Iguodala actually had the crowd cheering and whistling at his moves, including a one-handed windmill dunk, an off-the-backboard alley-oop from Gardner, a follow-up dunk off a missed Luke Walton shot, a triple-pump, reverse lay-up through traffic and a one-handed slam while going full speed at an awkward angle. He's sick and he is the best freshman in the Pac-10. Give him the trophy right now. This isn't just based on a pickup game either.

--Hassan Adams got the ball on a one-man fast break, took a few methodical dribbles, EXPLODED into the air and did a left-handed windmill dunk that looked like he was playing on an eight-foot rim. He also almost hit his head on the rim from a dead stop on one dunk. Springs, not calf muscles, are in his legs.

Anyway, it was very eventful and the games will get even better once Dunn, Salim, Bynum, Fox and Anderson join the teams.

This is the most talent Arizona has ever had. And if you didn't think the Cats were the best team in America in 2003, well, you might want to re-think that.

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Contact Ben Hansen at AZPointGuardU@yahoo.com

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