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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona moves on without Withey

    Arizona moves on without Withey

    A glaring hole in the Arizona men’s basketball frontcourt kept the Wildcats from completing the Red/Blue intrasquad scrimmage Saturday with the absence of Jeff Withey.

    But the incomplete scrimmage – designed to serve more like a high-profile practice – may indicate a key issue with this season’s Wildcats: depth.

    Lute Olson hasn’t been the only departure. Four-star freshman center Jeff Withey has all but officially transferred from the UA after what guard Garland Judkins called family issues.

    Withey is the third member of Arizona’s freshman class to leave before playing a single game in Tucson – top-rated recruit Brandon Jennings chose to play professionally in Italy and four-star forward Emmanuel Negedu escaped his letter of intent to play at Tennessee.

    Now, guard Brendon Lavender is the only freshman remaining from the original four scholarship players on Arizona’s 12-man roster. Judkins, Kyle Fogg and D.J. Shumpert all signed earlier this summer to play this season, following the departures of Jennings and Negedu.

    It’s a trend that current players have been left to deal with and forced to adjust to on the fly, just as they’ve done with Olson’s sudden retirement.

    “”He just went through a lot with his family,”” Judkins said of Withey. “”A lot of the stuff that happened is family-oriented. We’re just trying to move forward without him, because obviously he won’t be there.””

    Withey, who was expected to see considerable amount of playing time down low with forward Jordan Hill, missed practice Wednesday and did not appear on the roster for the Red/Blue game.

    “”It was real different (without Withey),”” Hill said. “”We would have finished the whole game if Jeff was here. We wish the best for him, even though he’s not here.””

    New defense begins to form
    UA associate head coach Mike Dunlap, the de facto defensive coordinator, dubbed this year’s defense “”The Claw,”” a term used to exemplify its aggressiveness.

    And as Saturday’s scrimmage was the first time the Wildcats participated in a full-court game-like scenario, the coaching staff received its first look at the hybrid defense.

    Dunlap mixed a zone defense with man-to-man principles, along with a few doses of full-court pressure.

    “”Defensively, I like where we’re at,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”I think we’re getting there.””

    Positioning on The Claw resembles a man-to-man format, except when an opponent cuts through the key, UA defenders don’t follow, Pennell said.

    One other huge advantage comes in avoiding foul trouble. Hill found himself shuffling in and out of the rotation last season due to early fouls that benched the 6-foot-10 forward in order to preserve his playing time for later in the game.

    UA forward Chase Budinger said The Claw should help prevent Hill from picking up “”stupid”” fouls away from the ball.

    “”It’s going to take time to perfect,”” Budinger said. “”In time, it will be very useful.””

    Said Pennell: “”A reason we do that is because it allows you to keep certain people on the floor longer. If we’re in a game early on and Jordan picks up two fouls, it’ll be counter productive to put him on the bench.

    “”It makes the opponent have to prepare for both, which just gives you a better chance of winning,”” Pennell added.

    As for the full-court press, Pennell said it will be used on a game-by-game basis, designed to eat up the shot clock and slow down opponents.

    “”It’s a very safe press,”” he said. “”Even if we don’t get a steal, I think it helps aggressiveness.””

    Offense to open up spacing, keep offense flowing
    Aside from changes on the defensive end, the Wildcats are also adjusting to a new motion offense based on Olson’s traditional style.

    Given a good opportunity or shot selection, Arizona will look to push the ball with more of an uptempo offensive scheme to try and score in the first eight seconds of the possession. If not, the team will slow down into a motion style of play.

    Pennell and the staff have worked on floor spacing in practice, allowing for more open shots with his jump-shot oriented team.

    Pennell has placed X’s on the floor of McKale Center outside the three-point line with tape in an effort to stretch the floor and spread the offense.

    “”We are a jump shooting team,”” Pennell said. “”We have to be able to stretch the floor with our spacing to get Jordan open. The only way to do that is to have a place on the floor identifying.””

    Pennell realizes that teams will double down on Hill in the paint, and plans on effectively countering that tactic to open up shooters like Budinger, Nic Wise and Zane Johnson, the latter of whom went 3-for-7 from beyond the arc in the scrimmage.

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