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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wildcats know it won’t be easy making up for Wise

    UA guard Nic Wise goes up for a layup past UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic during the Wildcats 82-60 loss to the No. 5 Bruins Feb. 3 in Pauley Pavilion. Arizona will be without its only true point guard for the next four to six weeks after Wise underwent knee surgery on Wednesday.
    UA guard Nic Wise goes up for a layup past UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic during the Wildcats’ 82-60 loss to the No. 5 Bruins Feb. 3 in Pauley Pavilion. Arizona will be without its only true point guard for the next four to six weeks after Wise underwent knee surgery on Wednesday.

    The saga continued for the Arizona men’s basketball team this week.

    Already trying to digest a whipping at the hands of No. 5 UCLA last weekend, the Wildcats found out that sparkplug Nic Wise would miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, an injury the team could ill afford.

    Which begs the question, what else can happen to Arizona?

    “”You have it in the back of your mind,”” said forward Chase Budinger. “”You just pray that injuries are going to stop, that people will stay healthy, that nothing bad will happen.””

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill noted that Wise’s injury marks the third major one to a rotation player this year, debilitating for a team lacking depth even at full strength.

    That includes the sprained right knee that kept guard Jerryd Bayless out for four games and the separated shoulder that’s caused forward Bret Brielmaier to miss six games and prompt O’Neill to say he doesn’t expect Brielmaier to be near 100 percent the rest of the year, which is a “”huge blow”” to the team.

    But the loss of Wise hurts greatly if for no other reason than that he’s the Wildcats’ only true point guard.

    “”I can’t imagine playing without a pure point guard,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan.

    Well, he’s going to have to get used to it, because that’s the position the Wildcats find themselves in after Wise’s injury and the December transfer of guard Laval Lucas-Perry, who likely would be playing heavy minutes during Wise’s absence had he stayed.

    Forward Chase Budinger, a player whose skills are much better utilized coming around screens than bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense, will see some time at point along with Bayless, who has played better off the ball with Wise on the floor.

    “”What Jerryd’s going to have to be is a straight scoring point guard,”” O’Neill said. “”That’s the bottom line, he’s going to have to be more aggressive, maybe a little more selfish in terms of looking for his own shot a little bit more.””

    O’Neill said the Wildcats will also run more offense through Budinger, Bayless and forward Jordan Hill. Although that trio already accounts for 67 percent of Arizona’s offense and takes 62 percent of the team’s shots, Wise often started those plays and let the Wildcats’ scorers finish them.

    Now that trio will have to start plays as well as finish them from different formations that basically hide the fact the Wildcats won’t have a true point guard on the floor.

    Wise has been one of the league’s better players during conference play since taking over a large role for Arizona around the start of the conference season. During his nine league games Wise leads the Pac-10 in steals (2.44 per game) and 3-point field-goal percentage (56.7 percent), while ranking second behind Washington State guard Taylor Rochestie in assists per game with 4.67.

    “”If you look at Nic’s Pac-10 stats and where he ranks, you know, steals, assists, 3-point shooting, he’s been a very, very valuable member of our team,”” O’Neill said. “”We’re missing an awful lot losing Nic Wise for four weeks.””

    Although nobody will replace him as a playmaker, the Wildcats will look to guards Daniel Dillon and Zane Johnson to fill Wise’s 34.4 minutes per game during league play, as the Wildcats’ regulars already play practically the whole game when out of foul trouble.

    Dillon has averaged 11.8 minutes per game during conference play when factoring out a career-high 44-minute outing Jan. 9 at ASU in place of the injured Bayless, while twice not playing by O’Neill’s decision.

    Johnson has averaged 4.1 minutes per game in seven contests since being taken out of his redshirt during the first ASU game.

    At the time Johnson said O’Neill had promised him “”at least”” 10 to 12 minutes every game, a surprising assurance due to the way O’Neill rides his starters. That promise has not come to fruition, as Johnson has not seen more than the eight minutes he got in his debut with Bayless out.

    Now O’Neill said he’s glad Johnson got his feet wet a bit the past few weeks because Johnson will be relied on more without Wise.

    “”It allows Daniel or Zane to step up here, too,”” McClellan said. “”When you’re a bench player you always want your chance to play. Well, now here’s your chance, now you have to step up.””

    Although neither Dillon nor Johnson possess near the ballhandling and playmaking skills of Wise, Dillon can provide lockdown defense and Johnson outside shooting. Their contributions will be crucial with the rest of the roster already overextended.

    Budinger pointed out the Wildcats have stuck together all year when adversity has struck – from Lute Olson’s coaching limbo situation to the Bayless injury – because of strong team chemistry, which will be important in enduring this latest setback.

    Missing their point guard, the Wildcats would also be wise to continue to follow the one-game-at-a-time mantra O’Neill keeps preaching instead of worrying about the next disaster that could be around the corner.

    “”The facts are what the facts are, we’ve had major injuries,”” O’Neill said. “”My job is to try to make sure our players stay focused on what we can control, and that’s practice and games and scouting and films and preparation and not worry about things we can’t control.

    “”That’s just the way it is. It’s part of basketball. You have to deal with it.””

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