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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Wildcats ‘shocked,’ ‘surprised’ by Lucas-Perry transfer”

    Hoops Notes

    Jordan Hill had no clue he was about to lose a teammate before seeing Laval Lucas-Perry’s locker cleaned out earlier this week.

    “”Everybody was shocked,”” Hill said of Lucas-Perry’s decision to transfer Monday. “”I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ We’re all sad he’s leaving, he was a good guard, but he said he wasn’t happy, so you’ve just got to respect him. I gave him my number, told him to call me whenever he needs me. We’re still here for him.””

    Guards Jerryd Bayless and Daniel Dillon both said they were “”surprised”” at the transfer, which Dillon said “”was just out of the blue.””

    Hill, who spoke with Lucas-Perry on Wednesday, speculated the long distance from the freshman’s family in Grand Blanc, Mich., contributed to the decision. Hill, an Atlanta native, went through a similar period of homesickness last year as a freshman.

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill described the transfer as “”unfortunate,”” calling Lucas-Perry a good kid who’s going to be a good player.

    O’Neill questioned the logic behind Lucas-Perry transferring in the middle of the season, which means he will not be eligible until the end of the fall semester next year when he will have two 1/2 years of eligibility left. If he had played out the season and transferred then, he would have been able to redshirt next year and come back the following season with three years of eligibility remaining.

    “”That was his decision, he had his mind made up, and we wish him nothing but the best,”” O’Neill said. “”He’s a good guy, he’s going to do well wherever he goes.””

    Moving on without Lucas-Perry

    As for who will replace Lucas-Perry in the rotation, O’Neill noted that he did not play too much, only averaging 6.3 minutes per game with three DNPs when taking out a career-high 24-minute stint Nov. 19 in a blowout of Missouri-Kansas City. Lucas-Perry averaged 4.0 points and 1.6 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game overall.

    Dillon could be in line for more action after a sporadic start to his year that includes three starts, 40- and 37-minute stints and four- and two-minute outings to go with a DNP.

    “”The minutes for a lot of different people have been going up and down, stuff like that, so we’ve been trying to adapt to that,”” said Dillon, who hadn’t thought if the transfer would affect his court time. “”Nobody knows what’s going on, but we’re trying to fit in where we can.””

    O’Neill said he tells all his players to be ready and to play their minutes hard, which will lead to more opportunities.

    “”You can’t play everybody,”” O’Neill said. “”It’s plain and simple for me, if I think a guy can help us I’m going to put him in there, and if at the time I don’t think he can help as much as the guys that are in there I’m going to leave those guys in there.””

    Hill earns weekly honor after big game

    Hill entered Saturday’s Illinois game averaging 11.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, numbers that O’Neill previously acknowledged sat below expectations that may have been unfairly high for the forward.

    Then Hill posted a line of 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks against the Fighting Illini, not only helping him more than live up to those expectations for a game but also earning him Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Week honors.

    “”I was ready,”” said Hill, who has said his focus hasn’t been there at times when he’s struggled. “”I was going up against a real good player, (Illinois center) Shaun Pruitt. He did great that game. He’s bigger than me, so I just stayed mentally and physically focused.””

    For that he became the first Wildcat to earn the weekly honor this season, winning it for the first time in his career.

    “”It’s a good feeling,”” he said. “”It just means people out there are watching me play, but I just can’t let it get to my head, it’s just an award. I’ve just got to stay out there and perform, just go out there and handle my business and do what I have to do.””

    Hill managed to stay on the floor for 41 minutes during the overtime affair, a contrast to the foul trouble that has plagued him and cut into his court time throughout the season.

    The sophomore scored a bucket with less than a minute left that put Arizona, who moved up a spot to No. 21 in the national rankings with the win, on top for the first time in the game and later tied the contest at 61 with a tough shot in the paint off an offensive rebound.

    O’Neill noted that many of Hill’s points came off set plays when the Illini double-teamed Bayless or forward Chase Budinger, who then found Hill open down low. He helped the Wildcats survive a first half when Arizona’s two stars combined to score just four points by contributing 12 of his 23 during that time.

    “”They look for me when I’m wide open, giving me good passes,”” Hill said. “”I just went out there, and my teammates’ shots wasn’t falling like they should, so I just made it my time to step up and be another player they can rely on.””

    Wildcats opt not to add assistant

    When Lute Olson took his leave of absence and O’Neill shifted into his head coaching position, an available assistant coaching spot opened up on the Wildcats’ staff.

    Eight games into the season, O’Neill has opted not to fill that position because he’s comfortable with Arizona’s coaching staff, which includes assistants Josh Pastner and Miles Simon, and doesn’t think it would positively affect his players.

    “”I don’t think the dynamic of bringing anybody else no matter who it would be makes sense right now,”” O’Neill said, “”and to me the only important thing is what’s best for the student-athletes on our team and their future, and I think the best thing to do is keep going the way they’re going the rest of the year.””

    Despite making that decision, O’Neill declined to call the Wildcats his team although he will serve as head coach the rest of the season, describing himself as a facilitator instead.

    “”If it is anybody’s team it is Lute’s team until he decides he does not want to coach anymore,”” O’Neill said. “”That is the way I would look at Arizona basketball, either short term or long term.””

    Onobun still working his way back

    Forward Fendi Onobun will be cleared to play Sunday against Fresno State for the second straight game but O’Neill has not decided if he will get any time.

    Onobun, who has not played this year after battling shin splints, has some catching up to do, O’Neill said, after being in contention for a starting spot before the injury.

    “”Whether I play him or not depends on what I see on the court the next three days,”” said O’Neill, who added Onobun has looked out of shape.

    Future UA star coming to Tucson

    Arizona fans looking for a glimpse of highly-regarded signee Brandon Jennings are in luck.

    UA fans can see Jennings, the top player in the class of 2008 according to ESPN.com, up close and personal during the GOAZCATS.com showdown in McKale Center on Dec. 22, when No. 1 Oak Hill (Va.) takes on James B. Dudley (N.C.) at 5 p.m.

    The Wildcats host San Diego State at 1 p.m. that day, with Tucson Salpointe Catholic playing Phoenix Desert Vista at 7 p.m. as part of the showdown.

    Oak Hill (11-1) and Arizona’s future point guard suffered their first loss of the season, 68-62, Thursday at the hands of No. 6 St. Benedict’s (N.J.), in a contest televised by ESPN. Jennings scored a season-low 21 points to go with four assists.

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