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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pennell to keep Olson’s game plan

    UA interim head coach Russ Pennell addresses the media on Wednesday in McKale Center. Pennell said he had no plans in changing Lute Olsons run-and-gun offense and zone defense.
    UA interim head coach Russ Pennell addresses the media on Wednesday in McKale Center. Pennell said he had no plans in changing Lute Olson’s run-and-gun offense and zone defense.

    Only four current Arizona men’s basketball players, plus a walk-on, have played Lute Olson’s free-flowing motion offense. But soon enough, the entire roster of 13 Wildcats will finally compete under the style they arrived in Tucson to experience.

    UA interim head coach Russ Pennell said he has no plans to change Olson’s offense and zone defense.

    “”I’m real big on pushing the basketball down the floor,”” said Pennell, who approves of high-quality shots within the first eight to 10 seconds of an offensive possession.

    Last season’s interim head coach, Kevin O’Neill, completely revamped Olson’s style after taking the reigns, prompting frustration from the Wildcats recruited to play Olson’s game plan.

    But since six freshmen and two sophomores currently comprise Arizona’s roster, the youth factor makes such quick movements and instincts difficult at the college level.

    “”One of the drawbacks to that right now is this basketball team is very young,”” Pennell said. “”The new players, some struggle in that initially just because their reads are not mature enough yet.””

    As for the three juniors – Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise – it’s not as difficult to break last season’s tendencies.

    “”I don’t think adjustments have been much because they like playing this way,”” Pennell said. “”You don’t have to tell Nic Wise to push the ball. Chase wants to run.””

    O’Neill’s strict man-to-man defense also became unnatural to last season’s veterans. But that, too, has returned to Olson’s zone – even bearing an official name: “”The Claw.””

    “”Like a Wildcat claw,”” Pennell said. “”It’s good, it’s very innovative, and I think with a little bit of time it’s going to be a really nice defense for us.””

    The Claw features an aggressive 1-1-3 zone set that accompanies many principles of man-to-man defense.

    Pennell called UA associate head coach Mike Dunlap an innovative genius on the defensive side, and even called Dunlap a professor.

    “”I think the big thing is to just be aggressive,”” Pennell said. “”We’re really trying to get these guys to play hard and compete at a very high level. If you don’t play hard, you’ve got no shot at winning.””

    Team now further understands Olson’s leave

    Olson’s decision to retire initially came at a bizarre time not only to fans and the media, but the players as well.

    Pennell met with the team to discuss Olson’s stroke, from which he has suffered after-affects over the past year. After informing the players of Olson’s status, the team nodded and didn’t ask any additional questions, Pennell said.

    “”I think that’s going to go a long way to be honest with you,”” Pennell said. “”Now they can see he didn’t abandon them, he didn’t walk out on them. He really wanted to be here and he couldn’t.

    “”I thought it was received very positively,”” he added.

    Not only does Pennell hope to return the team back to normalcy after disclosure of Olson’s medical situation, but the interim head coach hopes to use today’s off-day to calm himself as well.

    Wednesday night Pennell and Budinger flew to Los Angeles for the Pacific 10 Conference media day.

    “”The players – their thoughts are all over the place,”” he said. “”We’re trying to capture those and get them back on basketball.

    “”The big thing is, it’s really been so time consuming that I really haven’t had a chance to step back and reflect,”” Pennell added. “”I’m looking forward to just getting on the plane and having an hour to L.A. without having anything to do.

    Onobun working on ‘careless’ fouls

    With the possible transfer of freshman center Jeff Withey, senior Fendi Onobun may become a crucial piece to the Wildcats’ front court.

    Onobun hasn’t missed a practice despite an off-season shin surgery.

    Pennell said the senior’s explosion is back, and plans to work on eliminating foul trouble.

    “”Sometimes you tell a kid not to foul so much, then they’re not aggressive,”” Pennell said. “”I want him to cut out the careless fouls.

    “”He gives us a physical presence inside,”” the interim coach added. “”I think we have to just identify what we want out of Fendi.””

    Hiring third assistant not on radar

    Pennell contemplated hiring a third assistant coach, but felt the team would be better off without any more distractions or adjustments.

    “”It’s a new face; it’s getting used to somebody else,”” he said. “”We’ve kind of gone past that in my opinion.

    “”Right now the focus is right here on this team,”” Pennell added. “”We have enough help. Right now, I don’t even have time to interview somebody, and I don’t think it’s fair to come in and commit for

    five months.””

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