During the UA's championship game run two seasons ago, Richard Jefferson, at 6-7, would often get the call defensively against a dynamic, but shorter, point guard. That group played among the best defense in Wildcat history.
And after the NBA related defections that followed, Arizona struggled with its inability to dictate tempo on the defensive end of the floor last season. That's when the Arizona coaching staff set into motion the desire to recruit length. And that's when Bynum was done.
There are those who will say Bynum had the greatest raw talent on the roster, but while he seemed more comfortable in the offense, his defensive contributions remained limited. Meanwhile, incoming recruit Chris Rodgers was making strides in practice, and the coaching staff felt it was necessary to get Rodgers into the rotation to see what he could do. Rodgers didn't disappoint. At 6-4, he's something of a taller Reggie Geary, an absolute defensive pest. And while he has generally been an offensive liability during his time on the floor, the freshman has more than made up for it by helping to enhance Arizona's defensive presence.
When the UA rolled out Loren Woods at center, Jefferson at forward and Gilbert Arenas at guard, it became a defensive juggernaut. That three-headed monster caused nightmares for the opposition. With the addition of 6-4 two-guard Hassan Adams, 6-7 swingman Andre Iguodala and the 6-4 Rodgers, Arizona is already better, and can dictate tempo more regularly, than last year.
Adams, Iguodala and Rodgers are not the exception. They are the latest crop in the UA's area of focus. Go big, go long, disrupt the passing lanes and convert in transition. This year's recruiting focused almost exclusively on that model. Incoming point guard Mustafa Shakur is 6-4. Incoming front line presence Ndudi Ebi is a lanky 6-9 shot-blocker who can jump to the nosebleed seats. It's even happening at the junior ranks. Houston prospect Jawann McClellan is a 6-7 sharpshooter.
Next season, from a height standpoint, Arizona could rival some NBA rosters.
But what of point guard Jason Gardner? Certainly a good question. Gardner is a special player who made his name before the wave hit the shore. He is a gutsy, relentlessly competitive clutch performer who is integral to Arizona's success. But when he leaves, he'll be the last of the UA's sub-6-foot players. Bynum simply got swept up.
Like many who have commented on this issue, I believe Bynum could have succeeded in this program had he stuck with it. It wouldn't have been easy, but it could have been done. Now I hope he makes a wise choice in selecting his next stop.
Arizona, meanwhile, will move on, and more often than not, continue looking down upon the competition.
In a story only interesting to Schu, it was a monumental weekend for Japanese motor technology. You see, Schu's 1989 oxidized maroon Honda Accord surpassed the 200,000 mile mark. Schu likes his Honda Accord, a car he bought in early 1994 with 70,010 miles. A car he considers the best investment of his troubled life. Even greater than the two-foot tall Big Orange Bandai Godzilla figure he found at Atomic Comics recently.
In honor of this momentous event, Schu drove the oxidized Accord to the San Xavier Mission and anointed it with holy water in an effort to try to milk another 200,000 miles from its tight-running engine. Well, ok, so it wasn't exactly holy water. More like filtered CAP water in an Arrowhead bottle, but one takes what one can get.
The Schu philosophy on car ownership is this. Simply, why make a car payment if it's not necessary. Schu can spend that money on other things, like two-foot tall Big Orange Bandai Godzillas, or tangerine Altoids. The way Schu figures it, if the Accord costs him $1,500 a year on maintenance, at worst that's like five months worth of car payments at $300. Additionally, the insurance is cheaper, and it costs just $30 for registration. How rockin' is that? Schu believes it is very rockin' indeed.
Discuss this story on the CAT'S LAIR PREMIUM MESSAGE BOARD[John Schuster is an editor for Cat Tracks magazine and part of Fox Sports 1290's basketball postgame show. He also addresses himself in the third person at times.]