Cats making a pro impact

The NBA season has just begun, but already Arizona Wildcats are lighting up scoreboards and filling ESPN's top plays. The two most improved players in the league this season could be Richard Jefferson and Gilbert Arenas, both second year players who have already become young leaders on their teams.

The emergence of Richard Jefferson and Gilbert Arenas as young stars in the league can only better the University of Arizona's already wonderful reputation for getting players prepared for the NBA. Richard Jefferson has been extremely impressive early in the season. It is apparent when watching the Nets that the offense is centered around getting Jefferson the ball and letting him use his athleticism, hops, and vastly improving jump shot to score. Richard's per game production has drastically increased already, and if he can sustain his current numbers, could be the leading contender for most improved player in the league.

Jefferson's minutes are only up seven per game from last year's 24, yet he is averaging 17.3 points per game (last year 9.4), 4 rebounds, and is shooting a remarkable 59.5% from the field. Jefferson's athleticism allows him to shine in a situation where he sees the ball often. I expect that with experience Jefferson could be a 20 point 10 rebound a night player, and could find himself on an all-star team in the very near future.

Jefferson's jump in stats comes as no surprise to the Nets who traded away starting forward Keith Van Horn to give RJ the starting spot in the off-season.

I watched a Golden State Warrior's game a few nights ago, and immediately thought, where would this team be without Gilbert Arenas? Granted, the Warriors are currently one of the worst teams in the NBA, but probably could not even be competitive without the Arizona alumnus. Arenas' inspired play at the end of last season was enough to convince the Warriors that he is their future at the point. They traded away their former starting point Larry Hughes to the Wizards, and Arenas has stepped into the spotlight.

Four games into the new NBA season Arenas is showing the Warrior's management and faithful what he has, averaging 18 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. If Arenas keeps up the great contribution he will be getting a substantial paycheck, be it from the Warriors or otherwise, and will have assured himself a place in the NBA to shine for a long while.

Arenas is quickly becoming another "Point Guard U" grad, making a name for himself and the Wildcats in the league.

Going into his fourth year in the NBA, Jason Terry has been extremely hot so far. This Wildcat has averaged 22 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals per game so far this season, and should he be able to keep up similar numbers, could be looking at a career year. Terry and "Big Dog" Glenn Robinson are hoping to make the play-offs this year with a very talented squad behind them, and are off to a solid start with their only loss coming to Richard Jefferson's 4-0 New Jersey Nets. I expect the Hawks to make the playoffs this year with Terry carrying them all the way there.

Loren Woods is also making a major impact on his NBA team, and is also improving very quickly. Woods, a second round draft pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves, had a somewhat disappointing rookie season, averaging only 2 points and 2 boards per game in 9 minutes of floor time. However, this season, Woods has started all four games at center for the ‘Wolves, and his production has sky-rocketed. He is currently averaging 7 points and 7 rebounds per game, in only 26 minutes of floor time. Woods should improve steadily this season, solidifying himself as a legitimate starting center in the NBA.

Another Cat that never fails to amaze me is everyone's favorite, Steve Kerr. In Monday night's dramatic overtime victory against the Grizzlies, Kerr hit a clutch bucket with 24 seconds left in overtime, setting the stage for a Spurs victory.

The best thing about Kerr is that he was not a highly touted recruit in high school, and even though he was a very good college ball player, was not a lock to even make an NBA squad after being selected in the second round, but he has had a very respectable NBA career. Kerr represents the great ability of the University of Arizona basketball program to not only scout hidden talent, but to cultivate it. He is one among a increasing number of U of A ball players to lead prosperous NBA careers. Who ever could have guessed when Kerr first came to Arizona that he would one day shoot forty-six percent from the three point line over a successful, 14 year NBA career? I would bet that Lute Olson was the only one who could have guessed that.


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