Rodgers will factor at the point in '04

For many, a coronation at point guard is just a matter of planning. The school of thought leans toward freshman Mustafa Shakur getting the nod from Day One. Not so fast, says Chris Rodgers.

Next year Arizona will have every coach's favorite dilemma in the backcourt: too much talent. With Mustafa Shakur coming on to the scene, Salim Stoudamire honing his point guard skills, and Chris Rodgers developing, the Wildcats have a battle brewing for the starting position.

For the last two go-rounds the Wildcats have had freshmen step into the starting point guard role with great results. Mike Bibby was a critical component to Arizona's title run, and Jason Gardner has been stellar in his four years in the starting rotation. History might suggest that next year's starting point guard position will be filled by the newcomer Shakur. But if Shakur does land the role, he will have earned it every step of the way.

"I'm working hard to improve and adjust," Rodgers said. "There is a huge gap between playing in high school and playing in college, and although Mustafa is a great player, I'm going to work to try and take that spot."

The college game differs drastically from the one-on-one style of play that dominates the high school scene. Many freshmen come in unpolished, and are not accustomed to playing within a structured system. Bibby and Gardner proved it is not impossible for a freshman to step up and make the necessary adjustments for success in the college game.

However, most high school players do not have that kind of immediate success, and Bibby and Gardner had relatively clear paths. Jason Terry had yet to blossom in the Lute Olson system, which opened the door for the uniquely talented Bibby. The cupboard was largely bare when Gardner entered the program.

But aside from Rodgers, another Oregon prospect has his sights set on the position.

"Salim is also going to be a point at the next level," Rodgers said. "He's going to battle just as hard as I am to try and get that (starting) spot."

At first glance, Stoudamire might be the most formidable foe in Shakur's path. This season when Rodgers and Stoudamire have been in the game at the same time, Stoudamire has run the point and Rodgers has played the two-guard. Stoudamire has worked tirelessly to hone his ball-handling skills, and if he continues improve, the sharp-shooter could be running the show.

On the other hand, Rodgers came into the season tearing people up with his dribbling. Some may recall seeing Rodgers in preseason practices crossing up even the best defenders on the team. In some ways Rodgers has hit the wall with his progress, but many still expect him to display the preseason skills and become a dominant player.

"I'm thinking a little too much when I'm in the game," Rodgers said. "I need to just go with the flow a little bit more."

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