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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona Athletics

    Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama
    Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama


    Antoine Cason – In the past nine years of losing football at Arizona, one of the biggest problems has been a lack of talent on the roster. As head coach Mike Stoops brings in his third recruiting class, that has changed. Gifted secondary players like Cason and senior safety Michael Johnson should be first-day NFL Draft picks, with Cason expected to leave early, something unheard of for a program that went three years without a pick before getting a seventh-rounder last year. While they’re here, Cason, Johnson and the rest of the defensive backfield will form one of the best secondaries in the nation.


    Budinger, Chase – For a program that has produced forward Sean Elliott and guards Mike Bibby and Gilbert Arenas, it’s saying something that Budinger could be the best of them all. The superstar freshman forward may start the season outside the starting lineup, but he has the star power to eventually become the go-to scorer this season and form quite a one-two punch with sophomore forward Marcus Williams.


    Candrea, Mike and Caitlin Lowe – It all starts with Candrea, renowned internationally as the best coach in the game, as he manages Team USA during the offseason. The softball team has not missed the Women’s College World Series under Candrea since 1988, losing early only in 2004 when he coached in the Olympics. Team USA member Lowe, a senior center fielder, has nearly perfected Arizona’s small-ball game and is the catalyst for a mighty offense.


    Danielle Steinberg – After serving for two years in the Israeli Army, the Tel Aviv, Israel, native proved to be the top player on the women’s tennis squad as a 21-year-old freshman last year. Steinberg went 14-7, losing only to ranked opponents. After a year to get used to the American collegiate competition, expect her to be even better. On the men’s side, juniors Claudio Christen and Bruno Alcala look to make up for the loss of departed senior Roger Matalonga.


    Esway, Travis and Esler, Josh – Junior golfer Esway was named an honorable mention pick for the PING All-America team, giving Arizona an All-American each of the past 15 years. Senior Esler, meanwhile, ranked No. 113 overall and was the highest-finishing Wildcat at the NCAA Championships with a 48th-place finish after shooting a six-over 294. Fellow senior Henry Liaw, the most decorated golfer on the squad, led the Wildcats with a 71.89 average score last year and had the best low round, scoring a 66.


    Fox, Kristie – While Lowe gets on base and scores runs, it’s up to senior shortstop Kristie Fox to drive her in. She’s done that often the past three years, ranking No. 12 nationally in RBIs per game (1.02) last year, good for a team-high 66 to go with 15 home runs. When this duo is clicking, which they often are, including in last year’s Women’s College World Series, it’s typically more than enough for the Arizona pitching staff. While former ace Alicia Hollowell is gone, the Wildcats are in good hands with junior Taryne Mowatt (21-5, 1.28 ERA last year) and Amanda Williams, the No. 1 high school pitching prospect in the nation.


    Goodenough, Randi – Will the volleyball team be Goodenough (sorry, had to use that one) to sustain the loss of All-American departed seniors Kim Glass and Jennifer Abernathy, and All-Pacific 10 Conference honorable mention Bre Ladd? The sophomore opposite player Goodenough will have the help of freshman outside hitter Whitney Dosty, the No. 4 recruit in the nation according to, for the site’s overall No. 4 class. With all the talent lost, another Elite Eight run (where they were a point away from the Final Four) could be tough, but the future is bright with Dosty.


    Holmes, Louis – He could be the best junior college transfer in the country, control many games from his defensive end position, lead the Wildcats in sacks and make Arizona’s very good defense dominant. Or he could be the next B.J. Vickers, which means the media hypes him up as Arizona’s savior, yet he doesn’t show up for the first game and eventually drops out of school. Same goes for junior college transfer defensive tackle Gabe Long, who should be a force next to Holmes if he makes it to the field. Are they the real thing or just another Vickers? Stay tuned.


    Ivan Radenovic – When he arrived as a skinny freshman shooter from Serbia-Montenegro he could barely get on the court for a squad with little depth. Now the senior forward has developed a solid post game to go with his outside shot and has become one of the most-improved players in Arizona history. Along with seniors point guard Mustafa Shakur, who flirted with the NBA before returning and gives the team a true leader at the most critical position, and center Kirk Walters, who provides quality inside depth, the Wildcats will have the senior leadership that was critically lacking last year.


    Jerryd Bayless – In the class of Budinger as far as Arizona’s most talented recruits ever, he was supposed to be the next great player from Arizona to become a Wildcat with skills the mix of former players Mike Bibby and Richard Jefferson. He even held an elaborate press conference announcing his attentions last November and then reversed course this summer, deciding his mind actually wasn’t made up quite yet. Although Arizona isn’t actively recruiting him, a scholarship is still available, so if he signs everything is good. If not, get ready to boo when his St. Mary’s Knights visit Tucson Salpointe next year.


    Karin Wurm – The junior gymnast qualified individually for the NCAA Championships last year as an all-arounder and looks to return next year with her team, which should have a good chance since Arizona will be a regionals host. She won’t be alone, as the team loses just one senior (Erin Muirhead) and returns senior Aubrey Taylor, junior Danielle Hicks and sophomore Bree Workman.


    Livengood, Jim and Lopez, Andy – Livengood, the athletics director, and Lopez, the baseball head coach, are close friends and one of the finest duos in the business. Livengood was named the Athletic Director of the Year for the West Region and has hired a staff of coaches for all sports that rivals any in the nation. That includes Lopez, who led a sleeping giant of a baseball program to three straight postseason berths and a College World Series appearance in 2004 before having an off-year last season.


    Myers, Whitney – Myers hits the pool after a year in which she won the 400-yard individual medley to help her team finish third at the NCAA Championships and was a Honda Award finalist (for the best athlete in each sport) for her efforts. She also led her squad to a Pac-10 title and now has another year of experience under top-notch head coach Frank Busch, so who knows what she could do for an encore. The men lose Simon Burnett, their squad’s version of Myers, but return a solid roster highlighted by senior Adam Ritter (200y IM, sprint freestyle) and junior Albert Subirats (100y fly, 100y back, sprint freestyle), who both should be in the hunt for individual and relay titles this season.


    National Champions – Arizona plays in the Pac-10 Conference, otherwise known as the “”Conference of Champions. “” That could be seen in the Director’s Cup standings, which ranks schools by their finishes in postseason competitions, as seven schools were among the top 17, including No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 UCLA. The Wildcats finished 11th off the strength of softball’s national title, the school’s first since softball won it all in 2001. This basketball season also marks the 10-year anniversary of Arizona’s 1997 national championship.


    Olson, Lute – This legend needs no introduction. All he’s done is win 761 Division-I games, 316 Pac-10 games (more than even former UCLA great John Wooden), gone to five Final Fours (four at Arizona), produced 52 NBA draft picks, run a clean program and, oh yeah, that whole 1997 national championship thing was a big deal too. The only question left for the Silver Fox is if he will get a ring for his other hand before he retires as the greatest coach in Arizona basketball history.


    Plante, David and Preston Guilmet – On a squad with 17 freshmen last year, outfielder Plante (37 RBIs) and pitcher Guilmet (Friday starter second half of the year) showed they were capable of playing well at the college level. Along with sophomore outfielders Jon Gaston and T.J. Steele, it’s up to them to make sure Arizona returns to the postseason. They’ll get help from senior left-hander Brad Mills, who isn’t expected to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays although they drafted him in June, and junior infielder Colt Sedbrook, but would-be junior ace Eric Berger is already done for the year with Tommy John surgery.


    Quinley, Shevel – The sophomore finished fourth in the heptathlon at the Pac-10 Championships, 18th at the NCAA Championships and broke the Arizona freshman record in the pentathlon last year. For the men’s track and field team, seniors decathlete Jake Arnold and thrower Adam Kuehl return after dominating at the NCAAs. Arnold won the decathlon title and Kuehl will be the top returning discus thrower after finishing second.


    Robert Cheseret – It’s not a stretch to say Cheseret could end his Arizona career as the school’s best athlete ever, at least among those who competed in individual sports. Among his accomplishments with a season of cross country eligibility remaining: three-time track and field Pac-10 Athlete of the Year, two-time cross country Pac-10 AOY, 10 Pac-10 titles, 11 All-America awards and two NCAA individual titles. Will he win another cross country Pac-10 AOY? Don’t bet against it. Also, his sister, sophomore Irine Lagat, runs for the women.


    Stoops, Mike – Despite consecutive 3-8 seasons, there’s more buzz around the football program than any time since the year after the 1998 Holiday Bowl, Arizona’s last bowl appearance. Now it’s time for Stoops to deliver the goods and everybody will forget about how the athletics department jacked up prices in anticipation of a winner. Stoops has done his job off the field, infusing the roster with talent it hasn’t seen since 1997, and earning a fat contract extension through 2010 in the process. This could be the year Stoops’ Troops break through (see: Vegas Bowl).


    Twin Towers and Twin Powers – Women’s basketball head coach Joan Bonvicini called this year’s recruiting class possibly her best ever, and it’s largely because of a pair of tall twins. The Twin Towers, otherwise known as junior transfer centers Suzy and Beatrice Bofia, are thought to be the tallest twins in the world. But they’re no stiffs, as they’ve been nailing jumpers on the guys in the Tucson Summer Pro League this summer and have the athleticism to dunk, the perfect antidote for last year’s height-deficient lineup. The Twin Powers, freshmen forwards Rheya and Rhaya Neabors, played an up-tempo style in high school and have the versatility to help right away.


    Urtuzuastegui, Amanda – Besides the fact that her last name belongs in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the junior midfielder is a part of what needs to be a dominant junior class on the women’s soccer team that also includes goalie McCall Smith and defenders Claire Bodiya and Kaity Heath. That’s because there are just two seniors on the roster and last year’s star forward Mallory Miller has used up her eligibility. But that quartet should make up a ferocious defense for head coach Dan Tobias’ club.


    Vegas Bowl – Last season football fans dreamed of winter break in Vegas. If everything clicks, they could start thinking of El Paso, Texas, for the Sun Bowl. Sure it’s not as sexy, but no Wildcats fan would turn down a third-place conference finish. If Arizona finishes fourth, they take the long-awaited trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, but if preseason prognostications turn out correct, save your money for San Francisco (Pac-10’s No. 5 team, Emerald Bowl) or Honolulu (Pac-10 No. 6, Hawaii Bowl). Or the Wildcats could break everyone’s heart again, fail to get to a bowl game and make us wonder why we spent so much time planning that trip to Vegas. I’m a gambler, so I’m betting on Vegas (but then again I said that last year).


    Willie – Like Carmelo and Lebron, “”The Future”” needs no last name (Tuitama). If he’s everything he’s supposed to be, then the bowl drought will be over. As the most-hyped freshman in recent history last year, Willie seemingly turned around the program when he entered the Oregon game down 21-0 with “”Free Willie”” posters flying around the student section, only to tie the game before ultimately losing. After beating Oregon State on the road and leading the Wildcats to a huge upset over then-No. 7 and undefeated UCLA, he made fans dream of Pasadena, Calif. As a sophomore, now it’s time for him to prove that “”The Future”” is now.


    Xavier Smith – On a squad that should be at the top of the conference defensively and with a solid passing game (see: Willie), the biggest question mark on the team involves if they will be able to run the ball without departed running backs Mike Bell and Gilbert Harris. Redshirt junior Chris Henry will enter camp as the starter, and freshmen Derke Robinson and Glyndon Bolasky should also be in the mix with redshirt freshman Smith, but whoever it is must provide at least decent output for a bowl game to be a possibility.


    Year of the Wildcat? – It’s shaping up to be quite a year for Wildcats fans, so look for Arizona to get back into the top 10 of the Director’s Cup rankings for the first time since 2002. Men’s basketball has a loaded lineup and will be a Final Four threat, football looks to have more talent than any team since its last bowl appearance in 1998, softball is coming off a national championship and has the talent to repeat, and even women’s basketball, which had a down year last year, has the recruits to have a big comeback year. That’s not to mention some of the small sports like swimming, golf, track and gymnastics that should be primed for big years also. What does that mean? Buy your Zona Zoo pass and support sports big and small because it’s going to be an exciting year for Arizona Athletics.


    Zwanck, Adriana – With all due respect to the Zona Zoo (see page 23B), Arizona’s student section, women’s golf’s Zwanck was an honorable mention All-American as a freshman last year by posting a 74.60 stroke average. After helping the Wildcats to a 17th place finish at the NCAA Championships, Zwanck and Sommer Scholl form a mighty one-two sophomore punch. They might even help everyone forget about departed senior Cassandra Kirkland.

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