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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Onobun makes season debut

    With just under four minutes left on the clock, Kevin O’Neill signaled UA power forward Fendi Onobun to check into the game. Onobun sprang off the bench and tossed his long sleeve red practice shirt to the floor, anxious to play for the first time all season.

    Then he waited for the ball to go up and down the court three times before he could enter the game. Waiting is something he’s done all season because of shin splints in his left leg.

    Onobun scored two points on a tip-in basket in the final 3:10 of No. 21 Arizona’s 69-50 win over Fresno State on Sunday afternoon in McKale Center, while wearing a white brace over his shin.

    “”Health-wise, I’m still a little sore,”” Onobun said with ice on his shin after the game. “”But when I was out there, I had all that adrenaline going on and I really didn’t feel it. I just wanted to get out there and play through it, man.””

    O’Neill said before the beginning of the season that Onobun was a candidate for a starting role. He had dropped weight, gotten stronger and quicker and was going to be a power forward, exclusively, instead of bouncing between the 3 and 4 positions.

    But nine games later, Onobun’s role is not so definitive, with senior Bret Brielmaier and freshman Jamelle Horne eating a lot of minutes at the forward spot.

    “”He’s got to work hard and he’s got to make a smart decision,”” said guard Jawann McClellan, who has been through knee and wrist injuries before. “”If he’s not at full strength by the midway point, then he has to think about doing something that’s better for him and that might be to redshirt.””

    To receive a medical redshirt, also known as a medical hardship waiver, Onobun’s injury must limit his participation to no more than 20 percent of the team’s games, with all participation occurring in the first half of the season.

    Onobun’s been through the redshirt process before. After expecting to redshirt through the first 16 games of the season as a freshman two seasons ago, he had his redshirt pulled. He went on to play the next 16 games, averaging 3.1 points and 1.7 boards per game off the bench.

    “”It feels like freshman year all over again,”” Obobun said. “”Just starting from the bottom up and taking advantage of the minutes you have and going as hard as you can to try and earn more.””

    He played a smaller role last season, appearing in 14 games off the bench, averaging just 1.9 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.

    O’Neill, who recently sat down with Onobun to talk about the situation, said that he’s not worried about Onobun physically, but about “”him having a grasp of what’s going on.””

    Onobun said that getting back into the swing of things will be a gradual process, as he was a little winded from his short stint against the Bulldogs.

    “”I’ve been patient my whole career here,”” Onobun said. “”It’s nothing new to me, I just have to approach it with a positive attitude. I just pray to the Man upstairs that he gives me the opportunity to contribute for the better of the team.

    “”I have to find my knack that fits into the rotation,”” he added. “”I practice with (the team), but it’s just one of those occasions where I’m trying to fit in. Patience is a virtue.””

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