Plenty of talent at wing

While Arizona has many questions, they should have very few on the wing. Thanks to super-sophomore Chase Budinger, the Wildcats are in very good hands.

Last year Budinger was named the Pac-10's Freshman-of-the-Year and this season he wants to build on it. After the Wildcats lost to a physical Purdue in the NCAA Tournament, Budinger vowed to get stronger and tougher. Better than that pledge was the fact that he was bypassing guaranteed NBA money to take a second crack at the college game.

With Budinger, the Cats have the tall, long and athletic wing that Lute Olson loves. He is not a great defender, but does everything else very well. He can score, rebound and is a solid passer. He is among the best outside shooters on the team and his explosiveness is off the charts.

While the Budinger of last year was very good, the Cats need him to be great. Whereas a year ago the 6-7 small forward was apt to defer the big shots to veteran players, this year he has to not only take the big shot, but want those big shots. He showed flashes of being that guy, but now he has to totally assume that role.

Quite simply he has to make the jump from being a good player to a star.

"Chase worked harder on his game this summer than probably he ever has," Lute Olson said. "He's much more physical. He's tougher mentally. He was a key guy for us offensively, but this year we feel like he has made great strides defensively."

Behind Budinger is a wide variety of players. Jawann McClellan will start alongside Budinger at the two-guard but can play the three if need be. At 6-4 McClellan gives up some size but has the strength and quickness to still be effective.

Jamelle Horne was recruited to be a wing, but could see more time as an athletic four this year. At either spot Horne is a player from the Richard Jefferson mold. He may lack Jefferson's unbelievable athleticism, but he has great length, good hops and the ability to play inside and out.

"We believe that Jamelle was the best wingman coming out of the West," said Olson. "He has a great ability to affect the game at both ends of the floor."

Horne is a good, if not streaky, shooter and can do some damage around the rim. He is a good rebounder but needs to improve his ball handling and the ability to create his own shot.

Fellow freshman Zane Johnson is a pure shooter. Not as athletic as Budinger, McClellan or Horne, he may have the best pure jumpshot. Johnson is getting better on the defensive end and has good size. He needs to better create his own shot and become a presence on the boards if he wants to steal minutes from other players.

"Zane is best known for his shooting touch," Olson said.

Johnson was slowed in the preseason with a head injury and that could further prevent him from gaining early playing time.

Beyond that the Cats may have to get creative. They did go with a three-guard line-up during the preseason and power forward Fendi Onobun has played some wing, although he is not expected to cross train any more for the team. They also have walk-ons David Bagga and Lucas Spencer at their disposal.

While it is great to have depth, the Cats don't really want to need it. The better and more Budinger can play, the better it will be should be for the Cats. He is the star in waiting. He is the Cats' best player and the best chance to lead them to great things.

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