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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Men’s basketball gets new recruit, loses signed player”

    UA mens basketball assistant coach Russ Pennell, left, and associate head coach Mike Dunlap address the media in McKale Center on Monday. The coaches are hoping to instill a new system of trust in the program.
    UA men’s basketball assistant coach Russ Pennell, left, and associate head coach Mike Dunlap address the media in McKale Center on Monday. The coaches are hoping to instill a new system of trust in the program.

    It was a big day for the Arizona men’s basketball team Monday.

    Kyle Fogg, a 2008 recruit, took an unofficial visit to the UA over the weekend and committed to play for the Wildcats next season. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard from Brea Olinda (Calif.) High School, averaged nearly 25 points per game as a senior, along with 8.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

    Meanwhile, Russ Pennell and Mike Dunlap held a joint press conference in McKale Center, using the word “”trust”” liberally.

    Pennell, an assistant coach who was hired under head coach Lute Olson on May 5, and Dunlap, UA’s new associate head coach who was hired last Thursday, met with the team as a group for the first time.

    The coaches said they would do everything in their power to solidify the trust of the program after Olson’s season-long leave of absence last year and the departure of all three of Arizona’s assistant coaches from last season.

    “”I think it’s a group that is hungry for success,”” Pennell said of the Wildcats. “”I think that it’s a group that, because of the unfortunate circumstances last year, are not sure exactly where they stand – not sure exactly who to trust.

    “”A team is like a family and when you feel like there’s been some letdowns, sometimes that causes some indifference,”” Pennell added. “”And I think the big thing now with the whole situation is that we have an opportunity to let them know that it’s on solid ground. And we’re gonna do everything we can within our power to help them be successful, which in turn, lets the University of Arizona be successful.””

    The coaches have jumped headfirst into their respective positions. Though the coaching staff is coming together – just one more assistant coach needs to be hired – the staff the UA will have on the floor is less uncertain.

    Chase Budinger is still vacillating between staying in the NBA draft or returning to Arizona, Nic Wise still hasn’t decided whether he wants to transfer and 2008 recruit Emmanuel Negedu wants out of his signed letter of intent. Olson does not have to release Negedu because he is bound by contract.

    “”I think it’s important they understand what’s taken place and who they’ll be playing for and obviously each individual has to make up his own mind,”” Pennell said. “”But the thing Mike and I can do is let them know where we’re coming from, the experience we have. We want people who want to be a part of this team. That’s very important. In a day and age where kids are coddled a lot, I think it’s important that every member of a team wants to be there, wants to be a part of it. We certainly would love to have those guys back and they know that.

    “”Like with Chase, it’s not up to us. That has a lot to do with what happens in the next few weeks,”” Pennell added. “”So I think, again, all we can do is be ourselves. And we can share what we’re trying to do for coach (Olson). Not a lot of things are going to change, to be honest with you. I think the big thing right now is rebuilding trust.””

    To some, that rebuilding process would seem to be difficult. But that’s not the case for Dunlap.

    “”I don’t think this situation is one that I would call ‘tough.’ I wouldn’t call it anything,”” Dunlap said. “”I wouldn’t label it because I think it closes your mind to certain things. It also puts your back up in a place where you shouldn’t be. I think, really, when you come into any place and you’re a good listener and you’re open and you answer questions correctly and you just try to do things one thing at a time, (you won’t) get overwhelmed.””

    Dunlap attributed the easy transition to the coaches’ previous experience.

    Dunlap, 50, is coming off of two years as an assistant coach in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets. Before that, he was at Metropolitan State College for nine seasons, served three seasons at the pro level in Australia, and was an assistant at USC and Loyola Marymount University before that.

    Pennell, 47, has experience as an AAU head coach and as an assistant at ASU, Mississippi and Oklahoma State.

    “”I don’t feel overwhelmed and I think both of us are pros,”” Dunlap said. “”And I come from a pro background in terms of places that I’ve served. So I’m excited and I’m enthusiastic.

    “”And kids are kids,”” Dunlap added. “”They’re gonna have their issues and whatever those issues are, they can be good issues, too. I think they are some great kids here who are part of the foundation, along with the staff.””

    In the end, what it all comes down to is trust – from the players, coaches, fans and the Tucson community. After the uncharacteristic season the Wildcats has last season, it’s the basis for any good relationship.

    “”It’s just real unfortunate with what happened last year,”” Pennell said. “”You might go another 30 years, 40 years and not see anything like that. If coach Olson hadn’t had his step away, more than likely, Mike and I wouldn’t be here.

    “”I just think the events that took place opened new doors and new avenues,”” Pennell added. “”I know there’s a lot of naysayers – there usually (are) these days. But we’re genuine. What you see is what you get.””

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