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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Last shot in Lone Star state

    Arizona at Texas A&M

    As the lone senior Wildcat from the Lone Star state, forward Fendi Onobun ensured his family would see the Houston native’s final homecoming to the state of Texas.

    Onobun took care of his ticket requests back in August, knowing that other Texas natives Nic Wise and freshman Garland Judkins would also be playing in their home state tonight at 7:30 against Texas A&M (5-1).

    “”It’s going to be a great feeling, especially this being my last time,”” said Onobun, who will have roughly 10-15 family members and friends in attendance. “”I’m really excited going to the game knowing that I’m going to have an opportunity to play. It’s going to be fun.””

    Back then in August, nobody knew how Lute Olson would use Onobun in a crowded starting lineup that still included freshman center Jeff Withey – who was supposed to complement Jordan Hill in the front court.

    It’s been quite a roller coaster since.

    Onobun enters tonight’s game with experience in both starting and reserve roles this season.

    With his football-type build, UA interim head coach Russ Pennell has assigned Onobun as a “”designated screener”” at the power forward position.

    It’s a position Pennell has tweaked throughout the season, often eliminating size to use a smaller lineup that didn’t include Onobun.

    Instead, UA freshman guard Garland Judkins has unexpectedly received a significant amount of playing time, giving the Wildcats (5-1) a lineup of two guards (Judkins and Wise), two swingmen (Chase Budinger and Jamelle Horne) and a big man in Hill.

    But with Thursday’s announcement that Judkins will not make the trip to College Station, Texas – he “”failed to meet team obligations,”” Pennell said – Onobun has a better shot at shuffling in the fifth starting spot, contested by guard Kyle Fogg and forward Zane Johnson.

    “”I gotta go out there and do for the team,”” Onobun said. “”We have so many different people we can use. It kind of depends on what the coach needs me to do. I’m all for it, as long as I can help the team win.””

    Out of all the Wildcats, Pennell said he talks most with Onobun.

    “”I think he’s handled it fine,”” Pennell said of Onobun’s playing time. “”It’s a tough thing for a guy to be a senior, now he’s not starting. Fendi is such a man of character. He gets it.””

    Arizona faces its first power conference opponent of the season with the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series underway.

    Against its toughest opponent of the season from a big-time conference, the Wildcats may need to resort to a bigger lineup – adding Onobun – to keep up with size previously unseen against mid-major schools.

    “”I would think with (the Aggies) having a bigger squad, the coach would probably use me a little more just for size matchups and also help Jordan out.””

    Onobun has started in two of the Wildcats’ six games this season, averaging 14.3 minutes per game.

    But another twist Tuesday opened the gig for another shooter, after Zane Johnson led the team with 17 points and five 3s against Loyola Marymount.

    Despite his recent surge, Pennell doesn’t anticipate granting Johnson a starting role based on just one game. But rather, Pennell wants consistency.

    “”Today’s the same as it was yesterday before the game. I said (to Johnson), ‘I know you’ve been running around campus today and everybody’s been telling you how great you are,’ but I said, ‘go out there and go 0-for-6 and see how they love you next Monday,'”” Pennell said.

    Throughout the preseason, many wondered what kind of impact guard Brendon Lavender would create, as the freshman class’ lone early commit.

    Lavender came in with an unproven cast of fellow freshmen, leaving him as the only one with expectations. It’s something that has factored into his transition from a standout high school All-star to a college player, Pennell said.

    “”He’s his own worst critic and enemy,”” Pennell said. “”He’s trying so hard that sometimes he gets over-stimulated and doesn’t stay within what we’re trying to do. He’s got so much to give; he’s a talented young kid, and I really believe he’s got a really bright future.

    “”That and I think he’s probably put more expectations on himself than he needs,”” Pennell added.

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