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Wildcats add new dimension in 7-foot-1 center
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/18/1999
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By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- There will be a big difference in the Arizona Wildcats basketball team this season, a 7-foot-1 difference to be exact.

Loren Woods, who transferred from Wake Forest two seasons ago, becomes eligible this year and gives coach Lute Olson a presence his powerful program has usually lacked.

``We have for the first time in a long time a legitimate shot blocker who can make it difficult to score inside,'' Olson said.

Woods is glad to be free from the pressure he felt at Wake Forest, where he constantly heard himself referred to as the next Tim Duncan, uncomfortably large shoes for anyone to try to fill.

``Coach Olson said, `Look, you don't have to come in here and be anything that you're not,''' Woods said Monday at the Wildcats' media day. ``I didn't want to hear I was coming out to be the next anybody. Out here, all the players are good. West Coast basketball is different. You don't have to worry about being somebody else, trying to be somebody you're not. I think I fit perfectly here.''

In this program, Woods feels he's just one of many good players.

``I don't think anybody on this team has to come out here and score 40 or 50 points a game or pull down 20 or 30 rebounds,'' he said. ``This team is so talented that any day we should have three or four guys coming in and contributing a lot. I think that's going to make everybody relax and play up to their ability.''

After averaging 8.8 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds and blocking 50 shots as a sophomore at Wake Forest, Woods had to sit out a season before he was eligible at Arizona. He joins a deep, talented team that includes 6-7, 238-pound power forward Michael Wright, last season's Pac-10 freshman of the year.

Olson plans to use Woods and Wright in a high-low post to take advantage of their offensive abilities.

``We've made some adjustments in what we're doing offensively to allow us to get the ball inside more than what we've done over the last few years,'' Olson said. ``It's more an emphasis that we want these big guys involved in touching the ball.''

The biggest challenge will be to toughen Woods' inside play. Woods is a slim 251 pounds and has a reputation for not being able to withstand constant pounding.

``One of the biggest things that he needs to develop is the ability to take the banging that's going to go in there with someone his height,'' Olson said.

Sometimes, the Wildcats will pound on Woods with tackling dummies during practice. But the biggest lessons will come from Gene Edgerson, the rough senior power forward who is sitting out this year as a redshirt to concentrate on school but will usually practice with the squad.

Edgerson said he's perfectly suited for the role of toughening up the Wildcats' big new center.

``I'll take care of Loren this year in practice. You can believe that,'' Edgerson said with a big smile. ``I'll make sure he comes out of practice with a couple of scratches and bruises, because that's how it's going to be come Pac-10 time. I love making your job more difficult than you think it's going to be. That's my thing.''

One area that Woods should dominate is shot blocking and that talent should fit in well with Arizona's up-tempo style.

``Blocking shots has always come easy to me,'' Woods said. ``I have pretty good timing and I'm taller than pretty much everybody, so that's always been a natural thing to me. Definitely in this program, especially the way we run, once I block a shot and I get it, we're gone. That should be two points on the other end -- definitely.''

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