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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Lavender’s shooting hasn’t come as a surprise for Arizona basketball

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Zachary Vito / Daily Wildcat
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona Mens Basketball versus Northern Arizona University at McKale Center in Tucson Arizona on Saturday December 3 2011.

Two seasons ago, Arizona guard Brendon Lavender was at a crossroads. He was what head coach Sean Miller called the Wildcats’ best shooter in practice, but the results weren’t coming on the floor.

Lavender was scoring a little more than three points per game while playing more than 16 minutes. He was Arizona’s fourth-best 3-point shooter and his season average was hovering around an ordinary 35 percent from behind the arc.

The 6-foot-5 native of Mesa, Ariz., had a decision to make. He could transfer to a smaller school and see both his playing time and production increase, or he could stay at Arizona and face an uncertain future. Lavender opted for the latter option, and things couldn’t have worked out much better.

“I’m definitely glad I stuck it out,” Lavender said. “I’ve had a lot of lows but I’ve also had some highs. That’s one thing I’ve learned — you’ve gotta stick it out because usually there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I really didn’t know what was going to happen, but as of today, I’m happy with what I’ve done.”

Lavender leads the Pac-12 Conference in 3-point shooting at 51.9 percent and is one of the conference’s key bench players, scoring 5.2 points per game in 13.5 minutes of action. But Lavender’s laid-back personality means he isn’t the type to stalk statistics to see how he measures up.

“I’m just a moment dude,” he said, adding he learned that he sits atop the conference in 3-point shooting from people on Facebook and Twitter.

The evolution from practice standout to lethal in-game shooter began this summer when Lavender spent countless hours in the gym with fellow senior guard Kyle Fogg.

Fogg sits third in the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting at 44.6 percent.

“It’s definitely worked out for both of us,” Lavender said. “We worked as hard as we can throughout the summer and fall. I’m happy that I’m up there with some of the best shooters and hopefully it’ll work throughout the next couple days.”

The coaching staff is just as happy with Lavender’s choice to stay.

“We always had great confidence in Brendon’s shooting,” Miller said. “Sometimes his role on last year’s team is understated. He had big moments coming off the bench where he really delivered.”

The door was wide open for Lavender after Kevin Parrom’s preseason injuries forced the Wildcats to use a smaller lineup. But while Lavender’s time on the court hasn’t taken an exponential jump, his production has.

Lavender has sparked a number of Arizona runs this season with his lethal catch-and-shoot ability, and he is always a threat to spot up when the Wildcats are in transition. While Lavender falls a 3-pointer made per game short of qualifying for the NCAA’s 3-point shooting title, he would, at the least, be in the conversation as the best shooter in the country.

“As he’s been thrust into a bigger role — it’s one thing to have that opportunity,” Miller said. “It’s another thing to deliver and really seize that opportunity. Some of his shooting in games this year has been a real big reason why we’ve been on the winning side of things.”

But while Lavender’s 3-point barrages against Bryant (6-of-8), Oregon State (5-of-6) and Washington State (4-of-5 and 5-of-7) may stand out to fans, they couldn’t be further from the forefront of the guard’s mind.

“Those games are really fun, but like I said, I’m a winner,” Lavender said. “I just want to keep winning and get in the (NCAA) Tournament for my last year.”

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