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Lute started the festivities with some opening comments:
"It's nice to have the kind of competition we're having in practice right now. Last year, obviously with just nine guys on scholarship, we had to have walk-on tryouts and that kind of thing. The guys we ended up with did an excellent job, but it didn't create the kind of competition that we have right now.
"The depth is excellent. That's always been one of the secrets to our success that our practices are competitive and, I've always said, you learn the game in practice and you display what you've learned in games. I'm very happy with that.
"The guys have been working very hard. We're still very young with three seniors, no juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen, nine in the underclass group. Of course, Jason Ranne is in that junior class this year on scholarship. But as far as guys that were recruited here, we're still talking about nine underclassmen out of 12. Normally, that would bode well for the future. But the way things are now, you never know how long you're going to have anybody.
"I feel very good about this team, the squad chemistry has developed very quickly which is a credit to our senior tri-captains for that. Just as they did a year ago with last year's freshmen, they've gone out of their way to make sure the current freshmen class understands its responsibilities of the people in this program, the expectations and what it means to put on a jersey with Arizona across the chest. Ricky (Anderson), Luke (Walton), and Jason (Gardner) have continued do an outstanding job off the court as well as on the court.
"I think it is the most athletic team (in my tenure at Arizona) when you go with all the guys we've got on the depth chart. Certainly, we've had other teams that have been very athletic but not as deep as this team is. The other thing that is very different this year is the fact that we're looking from the first practice to the first game at about six weeks whereas a year ago we had to be on a very fast schedule. This year, we'll be able to take things in the order in which they should be taught as opposed to having to force feed them like last year and then having to come back to try to fill in all the gaps at later times in the year.
"The fact that we're athletic and that we have that depth is going to make it competitive throughout the year. But we're also going to be able to do more things defensively than what we've been able to do in the past. We've been trying in the first practices to establish what we expect from a defensive standpoint. We spent an inordinate amount of time on full-court and half-court defense. We're hoping to be able to pressure 40 minutes a game to utilize our depth and athleticism. I think our teams have always been fun to watch, but I think this team will try to create even more havoc on the defensive end of the court. And we hope to be able to turn those turnovers into quick baskets at the other end. I think we go deep enough to do that at every position.
"We've never had the depth and athleticism that we have on this team. In 1993-94, we did a lot of full court pressure. But we weren't able to sustain it for 40 minutes, whereas I really think we will with this team."
Discussion switched to whether this year's freshmen will have as significant an impact as last year's five man class:
"I think (this year's) freshmen are going to have an impact. We've never had a freshman class have to have the impact that last year's did. But as a result of that when we talk about five sophomores, they're not like a normal five sophomores. Four of the five ended up starting a number of games and the one who didn't start any games last year (Dennis Latimore) may be the most improved player from the end of last year until now. He's taken about 16 to 18 pounds off. He's still as strong as a bull, but he's much quicker. I think he's more comfortable with his role now. He's been very impressive in our workouts.
"We've been playing (Chris Rodgers) primarily at the point. That's always the toughest assignment a guy can have-to be placed at the point position because not only do you have to know your job, but know everyone else's job as well. With his team last year at Wilson, if they were going to win, he had to score a lot of points. He's adjusting now to the role of a point guard where you have to involve everybody. You still have to be able to hit the open shots, but he has four good players on the court with him. I'd say that the adjustment he's facing is a little bit like Will Bynum did a year ago where Will had to carry his team as a senior just as Chris had to. And now, Chris is having to adjust to that-getting the ball up without one more dribble, moving without the ball, setting screens, the usual things that need to be learned by anyone but especially the point guard. There's no question about the talent he has, the fact that he's getting the kind of competition that he's getting every day in practice is going to be beneficial to him.
"We thought Chris Dunn, the young man from New Mexico, was going to be a really good player. We have no question in our mind now after seeing for a little bit. He's long, he's very quick, he's quick to the ball, he runs the court. Great attitude. He's probably doing even better than what we anticipated. But anyone who knows the history of Hobbs, New Mexico basketball probably wouldn't be surprised with the way they play.
"We knew that Andre (Iguodala) and Hassan (Adams) were going to have an immediate impact and there isn't any question about that. They're both quick learners, they're willing learners. They have great athleticism. When you look at the freshmen coming in, usually the thing that happens is they're not as good defensively as you'd like-and that doesn't mean these guys don't have a lot to learn-but they are very good on the defensive end as well as offensively. As a matter of fact, I think right now they're more advanced defensively than they are offensively.
Olson talked about whether Adams or Iguodala were as good defensively as former Cat Reggie Geary:
"They're very similar to Reggie. I think the two of them are probably the best defenders we've had come in since Reggie. Although when you take a look at Salim Stoudamire being selected as the defensive player of the year by his teammates last year, you'd have to throw his name in there with Reggie and who I would compare these guys with.
"Right now, they know this is open season. So show us what you can do, there aren't any spots that are given away. They're earned. Our returnees understand that and I think our freshmen know that we'll evaluate them every day. The great thing about this is that there isn't anybody that can come out and go three-quarters speed and not get embarrassed."
On Channing Frye's progress in the weight room:
"(Channing Frye) is a whole lot stronger. Brad Arnett and our strength coaches have done just an unbelievable job with the guys, not just from a strength standpoint, but also working on balance and getting these guys down (in weight) which has been very helpful to us in getting them out on the court.
"Last year really helped (Channing Frye's) confidence when he was named all-Pac-10 freshmen team. I'm sure that the Australia experience really helped him, I believe he was our leading scorer and rebounder on that trip."
On Isaiah Fox:
"Isaiah (Fox) has made great strides. He's running the court like a forward." Olson discussed the senior leadership on this team:
"(The three seniors') experience is so vital to us, just as it was a year ago. This year, they've got the help of the sophomore guys to provide some assistance to the freshmen to help them along. I don't think it's possible to be a really good team unless you've got great upper class leadership.
"I don't think Jason (Gardner) would be able to go 38 minutes the way he did last year playing the way we're playing right now. Jason is as well-conditioned of an athlete that I think I've ever seen. He'll need rest to be able to do the job defensively that we need to get done. I think that's in his best interest too. His defense will be very much the key to our defense. When I visited with him after he had made the decision to come back, I said that the number one thing that he had to do is affect the game on the defensive end just like he does on the offensive end."