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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats’ starting roles up for grabs

    UA center Kirk Walters goes up for his only field goal attempt in Arizonas 76-72 overtime loss to No. 4 Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday night. The 6-foot-10 Walters played 19 minutes in his second appearance of the season.
    UA center Kirk Walters goes up for his only field goal attempt in Arizona’s 76-72 overtime loss to No. 4 Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday night. The 6-foot-10 Walters played 19 minutes in his second appearance of the season.

    Kevin O’Neill does not have a starting rotation etched in stone.

    Leading the Arizona men’s basketball team yet again tonight at 7:30 against Cal State-Fullerton in McKale Center, with head coach Lute Olson still on his leave of absence despite attending practice Monday, O’Neill said he often chooses the rotation by feel.

    “”I’m not trying to trick anybody, but I will always want to see practice (first),”” O’Neill said. “”If you tell a guy that he is starting all of the time and he comes in and dogs it in practice, then he shouldn’t start. So I’m in a position where I don’t want to put the players in a comfort zone where they aren’t going to practice hard every day.””

    Using a different fifth man three times in Arizona’s (3-2) five games, O’Neill went with a larger rotation against No. 4 Kansas on Sunday, starting 6-foot-11 center Kirk Walters.

    Playing 19 minutes, Walters saw his second action of the season and first stint longer than 1:40 after redshirting last season due to mononucleosis.

    “”Sometimes we’re going to have to play small and match and sometimes we’re going to have to play big,”” O’Neill said. “”I feel that it’s my job substitution-wise to be able to go with the flow of the game and get a feel for it and do the best I can to help us win that game.””

    Though O’Neill said he wasn’t going to decide on a starting lineup for tonight’s bout with the Titans (3-0) until after last night’s practice, he thought that he may start a larger lineup. The Titans start a 6-foot-6 center, and two forwards at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5.

    “”I think we did a pretty good job,”” Walters said of Arizona’s big-man rotation against Kansas that included 6-foot-10 Jordan Hill, along with 6-foot-6 Jamelle Horne and 6-foot-7 Bret Brielmaier off the bench. “”We did a pretty good job rebounding, which is a strength of their’s. They run a really good high-low, so we did a pretty good job of keeping it down low and cut off that part of their game.””

    The smaller part of Fullerton’s lineup consists of guards Josh Akognon (6 feet, 1 inch) and Junior Russell (5 feet, 6 inches), but their size does not imply a lack of skill.

    Shooting nearly 51 percent from the field, Akognon leads the team with 25.3 points per game – one of three players to average double digits in scoring.

    Russell averages 4.3 points and five assists per game.

    “”They’ve got two really good players,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger, who scored a game-high 27 points against Kansas. “”They like to shoot the ball. They (have) two go-to guys that have the green light. We’re going to really concentrate our efforts on them.””

    Arizona has an arsenal of guards to match up with its Titan couterparts. Jawann McClellan, Jerryd Bayless, Daniel Dillon, Nic Wise and Laval Lucas-Perry have all taken their turns in the rotation, with the latter two coming off the bench and Dillon earning two starts.

    Who Akognon and Russell will find themselves facing is unpredictable with O’Neill at the helm.

    “”I don’t think we can have a set rotation with this team,”” O’Neill said. “”I think that everybody needs to be alive and ready to play, and I’m asking guys to do that. I’m sure that guys get disappointed sometimes, but I’m more of a feel guy. I always have a definite thought about who I want to put in first.””

    And 1

    Arizona forward Fendi Onobun is still out indefinitely with a left shin injury. He has been running on an underwater treadmill, he said yesterday. The Houston native said he doesn’t want to rush the healing process but feels like he could play Sunday against No. 9 Texas A&M.

    “”I would be proud to play that game,”” Onobun said. “”(My shin) could definitely be a lot worse. It feels a lot better now.””

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