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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Yes Sir: NAU guard back again

    Stephen Sir
    Stephen Sir

    As Delaware State ended NAU’s season in the first round of the NIT last year, then-senior guard Stephen Sir didn’t know if that was the end of his college career.

    After the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility for an injured sophomore season when he played for San Diego State, Sir is back but not alone on a Lumberjack squad that UA’s 24th-year head coach Lute Olson called the best NAU team he’s seen since he’s been at Arizona.

    “”It was tough last year not knowing if this was my last year or if I was going to get another year back,”” Sir said in a phone interview yesterday. “”Thankfully, it wasn’t.””

    Sir leads a veteran Lumberjack group that returns four starters from last year’s Big Sky regular season championship squad for one final season, including a trio of seniors in himself, forward Ruben Boykin Jr. and guard Tyrone Bazy.

    “”I know NAU is a good basketball team because those same names that we dealt with a year ago are back and playing really well,”” Olson said of the club that will be coming to Tucson for the fourth time in five years, including last year’s 75-66 UA win. “”And obviously they’re playing with a lot of confidence.””

    The Lumberjacks (1-1) enter on a high after beating ASU 75-71 in Tempe last night. All five starters scored in double-figures for NAU, who beat ASU Monday for the first time since the 1998-99 season, after a season-opening 91-57 loss at No. 3 Kansas Saturday.

    Bazy scored 21 to lead NAU, who shot 51 percent on the game while holding the Sun Devils to 40 percent shooting.

    UA vs. NAU
    Last 3 meetings:
    Dec. 8, 2005 Arizona W 75-66
    Nov. 24 2003 Arizona W 107-73
    Nov. 27, 2002 Arizona W 101-66
    Stephen Sir last year at Arizona:
    9 points, 1 assist 3-for-8 from the field in 24 minutes

    “”It felt really good,”” Sir said. “”We had a disappointing game last year in their tournament over Christmas. The one thought in everybody’s mind was to have a much better showing this time around and also to bounce back from a bad game against Kansas.””

    NAU head coach Mike Adras certainly isn’t taking it easy on his squad in the early going, as the Arizona contest will be his squad’s third in five days. Combined with the Kansas blowout, the Lumberjacks are the only squad in Division I to play two teams in the top 10 in the season’s first week.

    “”It definitely makes everyone in our league, no disrespect, not seem quite as athletic,”” Sir said. “”Those are two of the more athletic teams in the country. It definitely shows how to play on the road in as tough an environment there is in college basketball.

    “”There’s not a lot of tougher places to play than Kansas and Arizona… Regardless of who we’re playing, just give the effort and see what happens.””

    The Lumberjacks enter with the experience of playing in front of 16,300 in the Jayhawk season opener and 10,267 against the Devils, but Sir said the team’s focus is on team defense, concentrating on help-side defense and talking together to make up for what the squad lacks in athleticism.

    “”We’d be hard-strapped to defend one-on-one at every position,”” he said. “”At every position, Arizona, just like Kansas, is very skilled. We defended well (Monday), so hopefully it carries forward (tonight).””

    Offensively for Sir, it’s all about the 3-point line. All but two of his shots have been 3s, as he has shot 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) from that range.

    “”It’s pretty big to have some guys who can shoot. I know I shoot it pretty well,”” Sir said. “”It helps because I’m able to stretch the defense and help people know where I am to open the lane for our point and two-man and post room to maneuver down low. If they cheat down, we can throw it out of the post or go in and get a bucket.””

    Sir, NAU’s all-time leader in 3-point percentage at 48.7 percent, was the national leader in 3-point field goal percentage (48.9) out of players with 2.5 makes per game and has hit a long ball in 48 of 49 games as a Lumberjack.

    “”You have to get a hand in his face every time he gets the ball,”” Olson said.

    The Lumberjacks have a balanced attack, with four players averaging double figures. Bazy, who earned Big Sky Player of the Week honors this week, leads the team with 14.5 points per game, including 21 against ASU.

    “”They have a great shooter; they have a guy that can penetrate and shoot and is very aggressive; they have a point guard (Josh Wilson) who runs (it),”” Olson said. “”They’re impressive.””

    But as for being the best NAU team Olson’s seen?

    “”That’s pretty big. NAU has had some good teams,”” said Sir, who followed NAU when he was in high school. “”They almost pulled it out against Cincinnati and St. John’s (in the NCAA Tournament). Those were really, really good teams.

    “”For coach Olson to say that is awfully flattering to our guys and our coaches.””

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