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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA recruiting hindered

    UA head coach Lute Olson argues a call with a referee in Arizonas first-round, 72-63 NCAA Tournament loss to Purpue on March 16, 2007, in New Orleans. Olson said the Wildcats will switch back from Kevin ONeills structured offense to Olsons more fluid style of play next season.
    UA head coach Lute Olson argues a call with a referee in Arizona’s first-round, 72-63 NCAA Tournament loss to Purpue on March 16, 2007, in New Orleans. Olson said the Wildcats will switch back from Kevin O’Neill’s structured offense to Olson’s more fluid style of play next season.

    Men’s Hoops Notes

    It’s hard to say what kind of residual effect Lute Olson’s leave of absence will have, but Olson said it hurt right away with a trio prospects from the class of 2009.

    Twin forwards Travis and David Wear, the Nos. 19 and 20 prospects in the class of 2009, committed to North Carolina on Jan. 4 and forward Hollis Thompson, No. 24 in the class, committed to Georgetown on Nov. 21. All three are five-star recruits, according to

    Olson announced his leave of absence on Nov. 4 and that he would be out for the season on Dec. 6.

    “”We were definitely No. 1 with one and very close to No. 1 with the other,”” Olson said.

    The Wildcats also nearly lost forward Emmanuel Negedu, the No. 31 player in the class of 2008, as Olson said Negedu told UA assistant coach Josh Pastner, “”Either coach ‘O’ is there as the head coach or I’m not coming.””

    “”I didn’t want to come out for another guy,”” Negedu said in a phone interview yesterday. “”(Olson)’s a nice guy, he recruited me and everything. (UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill had) never seen me play a game. I didn’t want to play for a guy who didn’t know me, didn’t know my weaknesses, didn’t know my strengths, didn’t see me play and stuff, so basically that was it.””

    Olson said Negedu had offers to play in Europe if he so chose, but Negedu said he likely would have signed with another school. Recruits who sign binding letters of intent can be let out of their commitment if there is a coaching change.

    Negedu said he would probably be visiting Tucson this weekend.

    Olson helps Bayless, Budinger make draft decisions

    Olson put in a busy first week of work, traveling to Phoenix to visit with the parents of UA guard Jerryd Bayless, and San Diego to see the family of UA forward Chase Budinger.

    While in San Diego, he also met with incoming freshman Jeff Withey, his family and Johnnie Horne, the father of UA forward Jamelle Horne, who has considered a transfer this offseason.

    “”The things I needed to get done I got done,”” Olson said.

    Olson said he would get as much information as he could for the Budingers’ and Bayless’ so they could help their sons make the best choice possible about the NBA draft. The UA coach said he has heard Bayless could be a top five or six draft pick next season, but staying in school could eventually help him earn a bigger rookie contract, as Olson saw with Sean Elliott 20 years ago.

    “”Could we help them next year? No question, and that’s one of the things I’ll say,”” Olson said. “”But it’s still their decision. I have never told them to go or to stay. I’ve presented the information.

    “”I think they know the NBA will be there a year from now, and I think their position would be much, much better than what it is now, and I’ve told them that, but I have not told them, ‘You need to stay.'””

    Olson on the Wildcats

    Olson said he didn’t feel like he let down the athletes he recruited, instead he said his health let them down.

    In hindsight, he felt his players handled the difficult situation in an appropriate manner.

    “”Maybe the fans needed to realize that this program doesn’t just operate, we don’t go into the gas station and fill the kids up with fuel and turn the key on,”” Olson said. “”These are kids … I couldn’t be more proud of how this group handled everything. You never saw them complaining.””

    That was the case, although Olson never addressed the players as a group about the situation, saying, “”They just knew what I said, and I think they could see why I
    couldn’t (coach).””

    Olson went on to say he thinks the experience will benefit the fans as well to see “”it’s not that easy”” as it has sometimes seemed throughout the program’s run of 24 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

    Olson also defended his past few teams that critics have blamed for not playing defense well enough or having enough heart.

    He pointed out the defensive field-goal percentage this season (44.1 percent) did not differ much from the past few years despite the influence of the defensive specialist O’Neill and that the team’s rebounding numbers have gone down, although that’s in large part due to playing smaller lineups.

    Olson also attacked O’Neill’s frequent criticism of Arizona’s lack of depth this season by saying guard Daniel Dillon was the first man off the bench last season, implying he should have gotten more than 14.4 minutes per game this season, a number that dwindled down the stretch.

    Graduation time

    Olson said four of the five seniors on Arizona’s roster will get their degree and the fifth is expected to get his after a semester of work.

    Redshirt junior Mohamed Tangara will also earn his degree, and in two weeks he will visit other schools where he will use his final season of eligibility. Tangara, who has played sparingly during his UA career, wants to go to a smaller school where he can play major minutes.

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