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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Different journey, same story”

    Brendon  Lavender, a guard, looks for a teammate during a 96-90 UA overtime win against Houston Saturday at McKale Center. Although Lavender only averages 5.3 minutes per game, UA  interim head coach Russ Pennell said the guard always brings a tremendous work ethic to practice.
    Brendon Lavender, a guard, looks for a teammate during a 96-90 UA overtime win against Houston Saturday at McKale Center. Although Lavender only averages 5.3 minutes per game, UA interim head coach Russ Pennell said the guard always brings a tremendous work ethic to practice.

    Brendon Lavender and Garland Judkins entered their initial season as Wildcats having traveled different routes.

    Lavender, a four-star recruit from Mesa, Ariz., was the only remaining signee to follow through on his commitment to Tucson despite a tumultuous off-season of coaching changes.

    Judkins became the beneficiary of Arizona’s freshman-class shuffle as an unranked and unknown prospect from Humble, Texas. He received a spot on the recently-vacated (most notably, Brandon Jennings-less) roster.

    Long stories short, many expected both guards to make big contributions, realizing that newly-inherited UA point guard Nic Wise couldn’t do everything himself.

    The off-ball guard position was the biggest mystery heading into the season. Would interim head coach Russ Pennell use Chase Budinger at that spot, allowing Jamelle Horne, Jordan Hill and Jeff Withey to compose a longer frontcourt?

    But even after Withey transferred, leaving yet another unsecured spot in the regular rotation, Judkins and Lavender still haven’t broken into significant roles.

    Many wondered whether Judkins’ early off-court antics would bring long-term repercussions. Entering the game at Texas A&M, Judkins averaged 23 minutes per game as a starter for four of those early contests.

    But after Pennell withheld Judkins from the Dec. 5 road trip to Texas A&M for violating team rules, the guard never quite reemerged back into his role. Judkins has yet to make another start since his suspension.

    In the short time he played early on in the season, Judkins showed his high-octane play could alleviate Wise defensively. In the Wildcats’ 1-1-3 defense, the top guard endures a heavier burden of the work by putting on-ball pressure all around the perimeter. But even with Judkins’ ideal, spark-plug style, the guard still rode the bench and only averages 6.3 minutes in Pacific 10 Conference play.

    “”I don’t really look at it as a doghouse,”” Pennell said. “”I don’t hold grudges. I just go with a day-by-day thing, and we’ll see how today goes. Once I discipline someone, I forgive him, and we move on.””

    Added Wise on the importance of Judkins: “”We need Garland. Anytime we can get him in there to guard one of their better players, it helps us a lot. He even got in and scored a layup in transition. We need him.””

    As for Lavender, his lack of playing time was blamed on the difficult transition from high school to college.

    Lavender has played in just 15 of the Wildcats’ 20 contests, averaging 5.3 minutes per game. He has scored 13 points all season, only putting him ahead of D.J. Shumpert and David Bagga on the team in total points.

    But the lack of playing time didn’t affect Lavender’s attitude and work ethic in practice, Pennell said.

    “”I’ve never seen one difference in Lavender’s attitude,”” Pennell said. “”He’s come to practice and worked hard every single day. There was no indication to me that he was losing heart, or that he was discouraged.””

    Lavender executed well defensively against Houston in his 10 minutes of action – he assumed the role of point guard while Wise took a breather on the bench. But still, the freshman’s biggest asset has yet to be seen, Pennell said. Despite taking just nine shots all season, Pennell said Lavender’s biggest strength is shooting.

    “”He’s done a lot of effort and energy off the bench,”” Pennell said. “”He was really good in our full-court press. I thought his on-ball pressure really sped Houston up even more and made them rush some things. The thing is we haven’t seen yet, he’s a really good shooter.””

    Added Wise: “”All three of them (Lavender, Judkins and Kyle Fogg) can get us into our offense. We kinda built up some other players to take care of that role.””

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