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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Shakur expected to play Thurs.

    UA guard Mustafa Shakur goes up over Washington forward Quincy Pondexter during the Wildcats 84-54 win Saturday in McKale Center.
    UA guard Mustafa Shakur goes up over Washington forward Quincy Pondexter during the Wildcats’ 84-54 win Saturday in McKale Center.

    Although the Arizona men’s basketball team has avoided major injuries for the most part this season, guard Mustafa Shakur became the latest player to suffer a sprained ankle in Saturday’s game against Washington.

    “”It’s a similar type of sprain to Marcus (Williams)’. Chase (Budinger)’s was a little bit more severe, I think,”” said UA head coach Lute Olson of Arizona’s starting forwards, neither of whom missed any games with their injuries.

    Shakur hurt his ankle early in the Washington game after getting tangled with UA forward Jordan Hill, but Olson expects him to be fine for Thursday’s contest against Oregon State.

    “”I didn’t realize it, but he hurt it in the first part of the game,”” Olson said. “”Him and Jordan went up and Jordan came down on ‘Staf’s ankle. I didn’t realize it was as bad as it was until I saw it.””

    Olson said Shakur would not practice today and that swelling could be an issue on the plane ride to Oregon.

    Shakur still managed to play 28 minutes against the Huskies and dish out a game-high eight assists, just over his Pacific 10 Conference-high average, but he only scored two points on 1-of-4 shooting.

    He was not available for comment yesterday or after the Washington game.

    Just hanging in the rankings

    Once again the Wildcats stayed in the national rankings, but just barely.

    Arizona slipped from No. 20 to No. 24 in the Associated Press poll after splitting with the Washington schools and moved out of the ESPN/USA Today poll for the first time this season. Besides Vanderbilt, the Wildcats are the only seven-loss team in the AP poll.

    But the Wildcats rank No. 7 in the RPI in large part due to a top-ranked strength of schedule.

    “”That’s why we do what we do,”” Olson said. “”People still recognize we play good teams.””

    New walk-on practices with the Cats

    The Wildcats used a new practice player, who sat on the bench during the Washington game in scrimmages this past week.

    James Smith, a 6-foot-4 forward from Tucson Flowing Wells High School, started practicing with the team Jan. 29, the Monday after Arizona’s loss to North Carolina, confirmed UA assistant coach Josh Pastner.

    The Wildcats needed Smith, a sophomore, to be able to scrimmage after injuries to big men Mohamed Tangara and Kirk Walters and the sporadic practice time of guard Jawann McClellan, who has battled knee injuries.

    It’s unclear whether he will ever suit up for the Wildcats or make this week’s trip to Oregon.

    Smith averaged 19.4 points and 10.1 rebounds as a senior at Flowing Wells High School and earned Tucson Citizen Southern Arizona First Team honors in 2005.

    Hill hits the road

    Hill, a freshman, has played his best basketball of the season on the recently completed four-game home stand, moving into the starting lineup in the process.

    Hill averaged 11.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while providing a defensive presence, including a career-high five blocks Saturday, but now must take his starting role on the road, where he has received minimal playing time. He played just six minutes on the Los Angeles road trip Jan. 18-20, failing to score or grab a rebound while picking up four fouls and turning the ball over three times.

    But that was a long time ago as far as Hill’s development goes.

    “”I’m prepared for road games,”” he said. “”The L.A. trip was kind of hard, but you’ve just got to focus.””

    In the past Olson has talked about how freshmen play differently at home and on the road, which has led the coach to rely on his starters even more. With his recent play and promotion to starter status, Olson figures the road will not bother Hill any longer.

    “”He’s brimming with confidence now,”” Olson said.

    Brielmaier the super walk-on

    One of the keys to Arizona’s 30-point victory over the Huskies involved the contributions of walk-on forward Bret Brielmaier, who played 20 minutes in the win.

    Brielmaier, who missed seven games in January with a knee injury, scored four points and grabbed three rebounds while providing energy off the bench.

    “”I don’t think we’ve ever had a walk-on on the team before that would be considered a top-seven player,”” Olson said. “”It doesn’t happen a lot in basketball. It’s unusual when a walk-on becomes as important to a team as Bret is.””

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