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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Men’s hoops newest player exciting for all

    During today’s college basketball era of irrelevant verbal commitments and unfulfilled promises, Darnell Shumpert took a careful approach to selecting a university.

    And after using nearly all the allocated time to do so, Schumpert ultimately selected to play for his hometown college under UA head coach Lute Olson.

    Shumpert, a Tucson native, accepted a scholarship to play for the Wildcats during the 2008-09 season after previously contemplating a walk-on role over the summer. The 6-foot-6 forward becomes the fifth – and final – player of this year’s freshman class of 2012.

    “”To have him go play D-I ball was certainly a thrill, but to have him here at home is that much more special, for our students, our faculty, and for Tucsonans,”” said Jim Ferguson, Schumpert’s high school head coach at Santa Rita High. “”That’s icing on the cake.””

    Arizona expressed interest in Shumpert in May at a meeting with the UA staff. Back then, the UA coaching staff didn’t expect to have an open scholarship available, and discussed the possibility of him walking onto the team through a tryout, Ferguson said.

    But at that point, prized ex-UA recruit Brandon Jennings – who opted to play professionally overseas – was still projected to be on the team with Emmanuel Negedu, who retracted his letter of intent amidst Olson’s assisting coaching staff shakeup.

    “”A lot of the talk was, did the U of A have a chance to get him to come as a walk-on? We pretty much thought, ‘probably not, but you never know,'”” Ferguson said. “”He even expressed to his Mom that he’d maybe even like to walk-on (at the UA) if nothing else happened.””

    Shumpert received offers from other schools – George Washington, Nevada-Las Vegas, St. Mary’s and Alabama-Birmingham, according to Rivals.com – but wasn’t ready to make the commitment, Ferguson said.

    “”I didn’t want to do that,”” Shumpert told ArizonaPreps.com. “”I know I can play (at Arizona), so I just decided to play through the summer.””

    Shumpert did not return a phone call from the Daily Wildcat.

    Shumpert led his high school team to a 27-4 record during the 2007-08 season while averaging a triple double – 11.0 points, 10.9 rebounds and 10.6 blocked shots – per game.

    Over the summer, Shumpert played AAU basketball with the Compton Magic and earned a spot on this summer’s Top-25 Full Court Press All-West Camp in California.

    “”I am so excited,”” Shumpert told ArizonaPreps.com. “”This is where I wanted to be all along.””

    Added Ferguson: “”He’s kind of a happy-go-lucky. He’s always got a smile on his face. You never see him down. When he came over to join our team from Sahuarita (High School after his junior year), the kids welcomed him, the faculty welcomed him, the team welcomed him.””

    Shumpert officially enrolled at Arizona on Aug 27, two days after the first day of classes. With the start of college basketball season less than two months away, Ferguson said the forward’s size and athleticism will make for an easier transition from high school.

    “”I think 6-foot-7 is on the short side – he plays much bigger,”” Ferguson said. “”We listed him as 6-foot-8 but he plays like someone who’s 6-foot-10. “”

    Added Olson in a press release: “”Darnell is a player who can help us. He’s got good size, good hands and moves well.””

    When he played for Ferguson’s Eagles, the coach utilized him as a force under the hoop – one who backed the ball into the basketball very well. He also possesses a good mid-range game, a solid 15-foot jump shot and excels on the defensive side of the floor, Ferguson said.

    “”Defensively, he’s terrific – he’s got great timing,”” Ferguson said. “”He’s got a good feeling of where the ball’s going to go.””

    Shumpert joins fellow freshmen Jeff Withey, Brendon Lavender, Kyle Fogg and Garland Judkins on this year’s squad.

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