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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wildcats playing with more urgency

    Hoops Notes

    The Arizona men’s basketball team’s first warmup game against someone other than themselves was last Thursday in McKale Center.

    An announced attendance of more than 12,000 fans showed up, Division II Incarnate Word showed up, but the Wildcats didn’t show up until well into the second half of the game.

    With less than a week left until the regular season begins and just one more exhibition game remaining – Wednesday against D-II Sonoma State – the Wildcats are no doubt feeling a greater sense of urgency.

    UA interim head coach Russ Pennell is trying to instill the notion of urgency into his players during practices by speeding up the time between drills, something he said may send mixed signals since he’s known for stopping practice often for explanation.

    But for this year’s bunch of youthful Wildcats, it’s all part of the learning curve.

    “”You have to learn to walk before you can run,”” Pennell said Monday. “”And I think that’s kind of where we’re at. Looking back, there’s signs of that.””

    Not only is Arizona trying to transition from being a second-half team to a first-half squad in a week’s time, but it’s trying to shake off the same label carried over from last season.

    In order to do that, UA coaches are focusing on the fundamentals of basketball: passing catching, and perfect pivots.

    “”Once you get (those) fundamentals down, now you can play a little faster,”” Pennell said. “”Now you can sprint better on your cuts to the basket, catch it in rhythm and not travel.””

    Getting more shots

    Many members on the team have been taking advantage of optional, individual 25-minute workouts with coaches. One player who has been extra diligent is forward Jamelle Horne, who has been making 250-300 shots per day, Pennell said.

    “”He will text coach (Mike) Dunlap and say, ‘Let’s go to the gym,’ and in between his classes he comes in and gets extra shots,”” Pennell said. “”I’m not surprised he’s making them, because he’s shooting them.””

    Horne went 6-of-11 from the field in Thursday’s exhibition game, including 2-of-4 shots from beyond arc.

    “”They’re seeing results,”” Pennell said of the players who have been taking part in the optional shooting workouts. “”It’s just like anything else. If you want to be a great pianist, you’ve got to play the piano. That’s what we’re finding.””

    Play for the right reasons

    If the Wildcats walk away from this season with one main point they took from Pennell, he’d most likely say it will be that they learned how to be team players and play the game of basketball for all the right reasons.

    Overall, Pennell said he has been impressed with Horne’s improved maturity, something the sophomore credited last year’s interim head coach, Kevin O’Neill, for. But Horne did have a slight relapse on Thursday.

    “”He cost us a basket the other night,”” Pennell said. “”He made a 3 and he was hot-dogging down the floor, and his man hit a 3. But once we pointed that out, I think he could see that.

    “”Our whole thing is, play for the right reasons,”” Pennell added. “”That’s what we’re trying to do. Get away from all this image stuff and play to win.””

    Pennell said he understands the difference between raw emotion and egotism. He can take the former, but latter will not be tolerated, he said.

    “”I hate to see someone beat their chest, pop their collar, whatever they call it these days,”” Pennell said. “”That’s just saying, ‘Look at me, look at me.'””

    Nothing new with Withey

    Pennell said the status of freshman Jeff Withey remains the same as it was last week – in the hands of the administration.?Last week UA athletic director Jim Livengood denied Withey’s request to transfer from Arizona, forcing Withey to continue to take classes at Arizona for the remainder of the scholastic year.

    The center has not been a part of the team since his decision to leave two weeks ago.

    “”We try to reach out to him as often as we can and make sure he’s all right, but we’ve never had a conversation about him coming back to play,”” Pennell said. “”That’s on him.””

    Four former Wildcats taken in NBA’s Developmental League

    Last Friday’s NBA Developmental League saw four ex-Wildcats get drafted in the 160-player field. They were:

  • Jawann McClellan – Dakota Wizards, fourth round, 54th overall
  • Kirk Walters – Anaheim Arsenal, fifth, 72nd
  • Isaiah Fox – Austin toros, sixth, 81st
  • Chris Rodgers – Iowa Energy, seventh, 111th
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