Latimore's departure comes at curious time

Dennis Latimore left the Arizona basketball team on Tuesday. His departure brings up more questions than answers. While the writing was on the wall for the power forward, the timing of his decision is very curious.

Dennis Latimore was one of the highest rated recruits in the class of 2001, but never lived up to the hype he had coming out of Halsted, Kansas. In his 57-game career, Latimore averaged just 2.4 points and 2.8 rebounds, while shooting 46.9 percent from the field. He made one career start and averaged 11.4 minutes per game.

Latimore often looked tentative and seemed to think more than react. He was a frustrating player who would show moments of brilliance, but usually appeared to have difficulty adjusting to the college game.

It is no surprise that Latimore left. He was the fourth, even fifth option in the post with Luke Walton logging time at the four. The Cats have shortened the bench, giving Walton more time at power forward, which left spot minutes to Latimore and Isaiah Fox. Latimore averaged 6.2 minutes, 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds over the last five games. Take out the UCLA game, where he logged 15 minutes, and the sophomore played just 16 minutes where he failed to score and corraled five rebounds.

Things weren't going to get much better for Latimore without a drastic improvement before next season. Anderson is the only pure post player who is leaving after the season and the Cats add three inside additions next year. Chris Dunn has already turned heads in practice as a redshirt. Dunn will be joined by Ndudi Ebi, the nation's top power forward recruit and Kirk Walters, a 6-10 post player who combines athleticism with height.

Many have speculated that in this day and age of instant gratification Latimore would not be patient enough to play a role and be an enforcer off the bench. It was no surprise to those who follow the program that Latimore decided to leave. What is shocking is the timing. Latimore departs less than a month before the start of the NCAA tournament. Even with diminished playing time Latimore had the chance to be part of a team that has a legitimate chance at a national title. He would have a shot at a ring and could still transfer at the end of the year.

Transfers are nothing new for the Wildcats. Latimore becomes the third player to leave the program since the end of last season. Andrew Zahn transferred before the start of the school year and Will Bynum left the team in December. Since 2000 seven players have transferred.

Latimore will still have to sit out all of next season as a redshirt as per NCAA transfer rules. What's worse is that if he leaves school, he will lose all of this semester's work. Latimore is a good student who is serious about his education. With the NBA a longshot it would be a shame if he were to lose the progress he made academically this semester.

The situation is even weirder since nothing was said at Lute Olson's weekly press conference. The press release announcing his departure came out only moments after the press conference concluded and many of the beat reporters were caught off guard. In fact one reporter was asking Olson and the available players about Latimore's recent haircut for a feature story he was developing. Neither Olson nor Jason Gardner or Channing Frye gave any indication that anything was afoot.

Cat Tracks writer Judd Graham spoke to Latimore after the ASU game. Latimore got dressed quickly and Graham spoke with him alone, away from the glare of the television lights and reporters' microphones. Latimore gave no indication to Graham that he was unhappy, going so far as grant him permission to attend a poetry reading as part of a feature we were considering.

Latimore did say one curious thing. When asked about how the team was playing he replied, "THEY'RE really starting to click."

We may never know the whole story. What caused him to leave so hastily? What made him make this decision now as opposed to later? Were things so frustrating that he would depart before getting a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament? In the end only Dennis knows for sure.

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