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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Recruit Negedu enjoys ‘good’ first meeting with O’Neill

    Hoops Notes

    After meeting with Kevin O’Neill Sunday in the Boston area, class of 2008 signee Emmanuel Negedu said he still feels good about his decision to attend Arizona.

    Negedu – a 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward from Wolfeboro Brewster Academy (N.H.) – committed the day before O’Neill was announced as an Arizona assistant, so the UA interim head coach had never met him.

    He has stayed firm with his commitment despite the personal leave of absence taken by UA head coach Lute Olson, which Negedu said was never an issue for him.

    Negedu, the No. 31 player in his class according to the recruiting service Rivals.com, said he talked about basketball and school with O’Neill during the visit as well as playing time.

    “”We kind of just talked about how he’s not sure if I’m going to start,”” Negedu said. “”(The incoming players) are coming in with a chance to win it.””

    Negedu said he needs to work on “”everything”” before arriving in Tucson. He’s doing that for a Brewster squad that has started the season 12-1, with Negedu averaging 13.9 points per game, including a season-high 23 in his last game Dec. 15 against New Hampton School.

    O’Neill happy with season thus far

    O’Neill reflected back on the first 11 games of the season after Saturday’s win over San Diego State.

    He noted that Arizona looked like a struggling team in its first two games – a too-close-for-comfort win over NAU in its Nov. 13 season opener and a home loss to Virginia on Nov. 17 – but sees his team making improvement as it has started to understand principles of team defense better.

    He sees the Wildcats as being committed to playing hard on the defensive end and sharing the ball.

    Their defensive effort can be seen in allowing opponents to shoot 41.2 percent from the field, lower than the total from each of the past four years. The results have been even better the past three games, with Arizona’s previous three opponents averaging 52.3 points per game on 32.4 percent shooting.

    Also, the Wildcats lead the conference by averaging 18.0 assists per game, with 68.0 percent of their shots being assisted on. It’s a balanced effort at that, as four players average between 3.0 and 4.2 assists per game.

    “”If you’ve got those two things then you’ve got a chance to be a good team,”” O’Neill said. “”So I’m happy with where we’re at.””

    One of the players lamented to O’Neill that Arizona is two possessions away from being 11-0, but O’Neill realizes his team is also two possessions from being 7-4.

    “”That’s basketball,”” O’Neill said. “”I would have liked to have seen us finish a couple games – Virginia, Kansas – in terms of execution. Overall I like how we’ve fought, I like how we’ve played this week, and I think we’ve handled our business in a manner that hopefully will lead us to improvement as we go along.””

    Moving up the rankings

    The Wildcats (9-2) jumped up the national rankings for the fourth straight week during their six-game winning streak, moving up to No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Today poll after being ranked No. 19 in both last week.

    More impressive, Arizona ranks No. 1 in the RPI, according to kenpom.com, as of games played Sunday with the third-toughest schedule in the nation.

    Things don’t get any easier this week with AP poll No. 2 Memphis on tap, a team who ranks No. 3 in the RPI. After that game the Wildcats will have played three of the top five teams in the RPI during the nonconference season.

    By the time Pacific 10 Conference play ends Arizona will have played four of the current top five teams in the AP poll on the road, with Washington State checking in at No. 4 and UCLA No. 5 behind previous opponent No. 3 Kansas and Saturday’s host Memphis.

    Playing hometown Aztecs no big deal for Budinger

    Saturday’s game against San Diego State marked the return game for forward Chase Budinger’s homecoming affair last season, but the San Diego product didn’t find things any different playing against his local team.

    “”I just take this as another game,”” he said.

    Budinger scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Aztecs, hitting 5 of 13 shots, below his 42.9 percent shooting on the season but much better than his five-point, one-rebound, 2-for-9 shooting effort last season at SDSU, which also didn’t faze him.

    “”Yeah, I shot bad, but I didn’t worry about it, we won by 20 last year,”” Budinger said of that game. “”All I care about is getting those wins.””

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