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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Now what?

    UA forward Chase Budinger drives by West Virginia forward DaSean Butler in a 75-65 Mountaineer win in Washington, D.C., Thursday night. Budinger said hell take roughly a week off before deciding if hell go pro next season.
    UA forward Chase Budinger drives by West Virginia forward Da’Sean Butler in a 75-65 Mountaineer win in Washington, D.C., Thursday night. Budinger said he’ll take roughly a week off before deciding if he’ll go pro next season.

    WASHINGTON – The season may be over for the UA men’s basketball team, but plenty of questions remain unanswered concerning what the 2008-09 edition of the Wildcats will look like.

    And that’s not to mention the iffy return of interim head coach Kevin O’Neill.

    Seniors Jawann McClellan, Bret Brielmaier, Daniel Dillon and Kirk Walters will not return after exhausting their eligibility, and redshirt junior Mohamed Tangara has elected to leave as well.

    Sophomores Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill and freshman Jerryd Bayless will entertain the possibility of entering the NBA draft. Those three would form the core of next year’s team – along with incoming freshman Brandon Jennings and sophomore Nic Wise – if they choose to return.

    “”All those things are up in the air. Guys have to make decisions, but the nucleus of a good team is in there, and a young team,”” O’Neill said.

    The final part of the mystery surrounds O’Neill. During the season his stance has been that he would wait until the year ended before considering his options for next season, something he said he does at the end of every year.

    If he returns, he would move back to the assistant coaching role he had originally been hired for under head coach Lute Olson but never actually fulfilled when Olson took a season-long leave of absence the day of the first exhibition game.

    While the university announced March 10 that Olson will return next season, O’Neill said he’s in no hurry to make a decision.

    He added there’s been “”an air of uncertainty”” around him for the past 25 years of his career, so this situation is nothing different for him and doesn’t bother him.

    In the meantime, O’Neill echoed the sentiments of his possibly NBA-bound players for a program that could look very different next season from the top on down.

    “”I haven’t even thought about that,”” O’Neill said about his future. “”That’s been the furthest thing from my mind for a long time, and at this point it’s still the furthest thing from my mind. I haven’t even put any thought into that whatsoever.””

    Bayless has been ranked in the top five of many recent mock drafts and sat at No. 3 in’s mock yesterday, No. 4 in’s version.

    He averaged 19.7 points per game, which led the team and ranked third in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    The guard remained as noncommittal on his future after Thursday’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to West Virginia as he has all season.

    “”I really haven’t looked forward to next year yet because this year’s still been going on, so I really don’t even know,”” Bayless said.

    Budinger, who ranks No. 10 in HoopsHype’s mock draft, had a disappointing year by some standards – being voted the most overrated player in the conference in an unofficial annual poll of the league’s media.

    He struggled at times on defense with his lateral quickness and averaged 17.1 points and 5.4 rebounds.

    Budinger said he plans to take a week off to clear his mind, regroup himself and let his body rest before seriously pondering his immediate future.

    He hesitated when asked whether what O’Neill decides to do would affect his decision, before saying, “”I’m not really sure about that right now. It’s too soon to even think about next year.””

    Before the season started, Hill said he would go if he’s “”hot,”” but if not he would return.

    He averaged 13.2 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds as Arizona’s sole post presence. has pegged him as the No. 15 overall pick.

    “”I know I made a lot of progress,”” Hill said. “”I know I got a lot better, but I know I can still get better. This year I know I’m better from all the games I played in this year.””

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