Practice Starts, Questions Abound Pt. 1

The college basketball preseason tipped off on Friday with the first full days of team practices. After a fall of smaller workouts, the team can now practice daily. With games a month away, the Wildcats face a number of questions.

You've heard the saying, "So many questions, and so little answers." We've all faced situations where we've faced more questions than we had answers for, and a good number of those situations didn't have such a positive outcome. This is kind of the scenario that the Arizona Wildcats basketball program is facing going into the 2007-08 season, except they feel that their situation is a bit different. While confident may not be a good word choice for their situation, the Wildcats feel pretty comfortable about the possible answers they have for their questions.

With the college basketball season officially getting started tonight with the first official practice, those questions may begin to erase themselves, and be replaced with answers.

Let's take a look at some of those questions, along with possible scenarios and answers:

Front Court Depth

We know the Wildcats are planning on giving Jordan Hill significant minutes in the front court assuming he grows and learns to stay out of foul trouble. However, what the Wildcats don't know is where they are going to play Hill, whether it is at the power forward spot or the center position.

The Cats initially planned on having Hill play the power forward spot while having Kirk Walters play the center position in hopes of giving the Cats that much needed production in the front court. However, Walters hasn't fully recovered since the 2006-07 season in which he suffered a concussion and mononucleosis after playing just three minutes for the Wildcats.

Other possible players that could see significant action in the front court for the Wildcats are junior Fendi Onobun, freshman Jamelle Horne, junior Mohamed Tangara, and senior Bret Brielmaier. However, with the exception of Brielmaier who played more minutes than the other three combined, none of the other front court options have much experience at all. While that may be crucial in the later months of the season, it's going to be up to the coaching staff to get these inexperienced players significant action early in the season in order to see what they can provide for the Wildcats.

Point Guard Position

As of right now, the Wildcats are looking at freshman Jerryd Bayless as their starting point guard. According to Coach Lute Olson, Bayless is a true combo guard, but has the ability and potential to be an impact point guard at the college level, and ultimately the NBA level. However, with Bayless's scoring ability, the idea of allowing him to play off the ball is a very intriguing one. That's where the need for a point guard comes into play.

The Cats have realistically three options for that role, with the possibility of a fourth. Those options are Nic Wise, Laval-Lucas Perry, and Daniel Dillon. However, when dealing with all three of those options, they have their flaws too.

As much as Nic Wise has improved and matured over the course of the last few months, it still remains to be seen what kind of production he's able to provide at that spot. Will Wise be able to improve on his assist to turnover ratio that's ever-so crucial as a point guard? Will he be able to improve offensively enough where it won't be hurting the Wildcats? We all know Wise has worked as hard as anyone has this offseason in order to prepare for the upcoming season, but will that all pay off once the season actually starts? Laval-Lucas Perry is another possibility at the point guard position, but like the majority of the front court possibilities, he too is lacking in the experience department. It's quite possible that Perry steps up and gains significant playing time as a freshman, but it's also very possible that he goes through the typical freshman woes and doesn't see much action during the season. He's more of a wildcard than anything right now for the Wildcats.

Daniel Dillon, one of four seniors, is another possible option at the point guard position. As a senior, Dillon has the experience to play the position, and he's been a steady asset throughout his tenure as a Wildcat. He hustles, does the little things, and takes care of the basketball. While he's not going to blow you away with his flashiness, he has the most experience in the program. The biggest question is whether he can handle the pressures of the point. Although he was brought into the program as a combo guard, to date most of his work has been as an off-guard.

Then there is that fourth option. It's something the Cats haven't used since the days of Luke Walton, but if the situation comes up where Bayless, Perry, Wise, and Dillon prove they cannot handle the bulk of the point guard duties, the return of the "point forward" may be a possibility. The Cats have two players, Jawann McClellan and Chase Budinger who could conceivably do a solid job as the point guard. Of course the Cats would prefer this not to be the case, but if the worst case scenario occurs, this should be an option that is looked at extremely closely.

Realistically, despite a number of options, this is Bayless' job to lose. The freshman phenom will be on the floor somewhere and odds are he'll be the third consecutive starting point guard to begin his career as a true fresman.

Jawann McClellan's Health

13.1 points per game versus 7.3 points per game. That's the difference between Jawann McClellan's production during the first ten games of last season compared to his production over the next twenty games for the Wildcats. Last year, the Cats went as McClellan went. He was playing the best basketball of his collegiate career during the first ten games of the 2006-07 season, which helped the Cats get off to a fast 9-1 start.

After that, McClellan's knee problems, which have been an issue of concern throughout the majority of his college career, began to flare up again, limiting his ability and production for this basketball team. McClellan, one of the team's best defensive players and perhaps their most explosive offensive player, wasn't able to do the things he had been able to do during the first ten games of the season. He wasn't able to practice on a consistent basis, if at all at times, which limited him immensely.

Despite a disappointing junior season, both as a team and individually, McClellan immediately vowed to take over as the leader of this basketball team and to get healthy; and that's exactly what he did during the offseason. He went through rigorous offseason training in order to get his body into shape that would allow his body to take pressure off his knees and allow him more mobility. McClellan and the Wildcat coaching staff have made it clear that he's in great shape, and able to practice on a daily basis; something he wasn't able to do for the majority of last season.

The health of McClellan is going to be an important aspect for the Cats and their success this year. He's an experienced and explosive player that will assume the role as the leader on this basketball team. Whether that's vocally or leading by example, the impact that McClellan has on this basketball team can't go unnoticed, and should be a key contributor to whether this team has a large amount of success during this upcoming season.

Look for Part Two regarding questions about the upcoming basketball season later this weekend.


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