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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Hoops update: Adams back to practice

    Senior guards Hassan Adams and Chris Rodgers are seen here in action earlier this season. Adams, the teams leading scorer, began practicing with the team Sunday after being suspended for the Pac-10 tournament.
    Senior guards Hassan Adams and Chris Rodgers are seen here in action earlier this season. Adams, the team’s leading scorer, began practicing with the team Sunday after being suspended for the Pac-10 tournament.

    After missing last weekend’s Pacific 10 Conference Tournament, senior guard Hassan Adams returned to practice this week looking as good as ever, teammates said.

    Adams, who was suspended for the conference tournament after being cited for suspicion of drunken driving early March 5, had also been nursing an injured shoulder suffered in March 2’s win over Washington State.

    “”It means a lot having our go-to guy back,”” junior point guard Mustafa Shakur said. “”His athleticism is out of the building, just having that man out there is raw emotion.””

    Junior forward Ivan Radenovic said Adams “”looked great”” in Sunday night’s practice and freshman forward Fendi Onobun said that the suspension could be a blessing in disguise since Adams had a week off to rest his shoulder.

    Freshman forward Marcus Williams, Arizona’s second leading scorer behind Adams, shouldered some of the scoring load at the conference tournament in Los Angeles.

    Williams scored a career-high 25 points in Friday’s loss to the Bruins and set a career high with 19 shot attempts a day after taking 16 shots in Thursday’s win over Stanford, both numbers much higher than his approximate 10-shot average.

    “”Getting Hassan back will be big for us,”” Williams said. “”Seventeen points, six rebounds is big shoes to fill. It’s going to be great to have that back, that athleticism and that senior leadership.

    “”That was a big part of the UCLA game. It’s going to be great, and I’m looking forward to it.””

    Shakur coming home

    While many Arizona fans won’t be able to make the cross country trip to Philadelphia for the first and potentially second round games, Shakur said he will have about 200 family member and friends attending the game in his home town.

    “”You always want to go back and do well in front of your family and friends,”” he said.

    Shakur, from Philadelphia’s Friends Central High School, was widely regarded as the No. 1 point guard prospect coming out of high school and will help fill some seats at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Arena, the site of the first and second round games.

    He said he doesn’t think there’s any added pressure on him playing in front of his hometown crowd.

    “”Every time I played in front of my family or friends when they came out I always played well, so I think it’s more fun,”” he said.

    Shakur said he has been hassling teammates for their six allotted tickets. However, he said he didn’t even realize he was headed home at first because he was not watching the selection show, wanting to wait and see what happened.

    “”Then I looked at my phone and all of a sudden I had four voice mails, and I knew I was coming home right there,”” he said.

    The Wildcats had been rumored to take a trip next year to Philadelphia to play Minneapolis Region No. 1 seed Villanova in what would be a homecoming game for Shakur, but No. 8-seeded Arizona may get that matchup Sunday as they will play Villanova if both teams reach the second round.

    “”I’ll be happy to go home for the first time playing in front of hometown fans, friends and family,”” Shakur said. “”We’re going to have a lot of supporters there, so it’s going to be a good time.””

    Wisconsin resembles Cougars

    While recently retired Washington State head coach Dick Bennett left Wisconsin after the 2000 season, Arizona’s first round opponent, the No. 9-seeded Badgers, still employ a slow down system which Wildcat players said reminds them of Bennett’s 2006 Cougars.

    “”We already prepared for that,”” Radenovic said. “”We played Washington State and some other teams that slow the game down. They won’t take bad shots, and they won’t have lots of turnovers, so also they’re a pretty good shooting team.””

    Williams said the team will employ a similar strategy as to what they do against the Cougars.

    “”Basically try to make them play athletic, make them play our style, push the ball, get out and run and play the Arizona style,”” he said.

    Shades of ’97?

    Nobody’s expecting a championship this year, but some of the comparisons between the 2006 Wildcats and the 1997 national champion Wildcats are downright eerie.

    Both squads struggled through conference play with identical 11-7 marks and entered the tournament with 19 wins.

    The champions had a stud freshman in Mike Bibby, while Williams is the “”diaper dandy”” on the 2006 team.

    The ’97 squad had former guard and current assistant coach Miles Simon academically ineligible for the first part of the year, while this year’s version had redshirting sophomore guard Jawann McClellan academically ineligible, although he only played two games before an injured left wrist forced him to miss the rest of the year.

    Most bizarre of all is that the champion this year will be cutting down the nets at Indianapolis’ RCA Dome, just like Simon and Bibby did nine years ago.

    “”There’s lots of similarities with the ’97 team,”” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. “”We’re better than that team defensively, and I think they shot the ball better. I think that team had the outstanding leadership of Miles Simon. That’s so critical in the tournament.””

    One streak down, one to go

    While the Wildcats longest active streak of 22 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances was extended this week, Arizona needs one more win to continue its 18-year run of 20-win seasons.

    “”It’s good to know this year is not the year that we lost the streak, so it’s good to keep on getting that,”” junior center Kirk Walters said.

    Walters said that just winning games is more important than focusing on a number, even the 20-win plateau, at this point in the year.

    “”If there was a possibility that you could win no games but that final game you’d definitely take that,”” he said. “”Right now it’s the NCAA Tournament, you’ve got to look at it you have to win every game.””

    Wildcats face tough road

    While the Wildcats will play their first and potential second round games across the country, that’s nothing new for Arizona.

    The Wildcats’ non-conference schedule included the Maui Invitational and road games at Utah, Houston and Washington, D.C. Region No. 3 seed North Carolina, which had the atmosphere of what Wachovia Center will likely feel like if Arizona matches up against hometown Villanova in the second round.

    “”We played 11 non-conference games, and only five were played at McKale Center,”” Olson said. “”Most of the top programs did not go away from home a whole lot.””

    10 Brielmaiers?

    Being a Big 10 school Wisconsin is known for having a tough, scrappy roster, much like sophomore walk-on forward Bret Brielmaier, a fact which he said his teammates have joked around with him about.

    “”There’s 10 Bret Brielmaiers out there for Wisconsin,”” Brielmaier said.

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