Feb. 15, 2005
That was a good weekend for us. I think we played very well. The good thing is that our guys are very focused on getting better. They are not satisfied with last weekend. They feel good about it, but they’re going to continue to work on getting better. You take a look at their numbers right now in conference as compared to what it was in non-conference, and we’re almost 50 percent from the field now in conference, 83.1 from the free throw line. Our three-point percentage as a team is 42.6.
So the progress is there and it will continue. A lot of that has to do with the attitude that they have, the focus they have, and also the competition they face daily in practice.
With Oregon, they have made a couple of changes in the starting lineup. It makes it more difficult for us, but on the other hand they will have to deal with our size. Jordan Kent is starting now in their four position. He had 19 (points) and 16 (rebounds) in their last game. He attacks the glass really well. He’s a slasher. He can face up and shoot it. He will be a real challenge for Ivan (Radenovic).
They have Maarty (Leunen) at the forward spot, or the post position I should say, now. With Leunen, he an Oregon kid ?- a freshman. I think He is someone with the potential to be the next Luke Jackson. He handles the ball well, shoots the ball, and has a really good feel for the game.
They are playing a lot of 2-3 zone, which solves the problem of matching up against bigger teams. They have with Aaron Brooks at the point guard position, the quickest guy in the league up and down the floor, so one of our first challenges is going to be to handle their fast break. They really keep the court spread to create a lot of driving opportunities. It should be very much a challenge.
Sunday with Oregon State...They had a great win Sunday against Washington, but they also beat Washington State up there, so the only loss Oregon State’s had at home was against us. I watched the Washington game and they played really well. (Nick) DeWitz is playing well. (David) Lucas is now like he’s at midseason form. I think that injury really slowed him down
As far as our seniors go on Sunday (UA’s final home game), I’m sure it will be a difficult day for each of them. With Salim (Stoudamire) and Channing (Frye) having been four-year starters here, the reality starts coming forth when you have Senior Day. Obviously, it will be the last day they have to play as Wildcats (at home). In Matt Brase’s case, he’s been a fan since he was two years old. He’s really enjoyed his opportunity here even though there hasn’t been a whole lot of playing opportunities. He will get his degree in May. Despite my efforts, he still wants to coach even though his degree will be in business.
The guys always get on the seniors a little bit about who won’t be able to keep their eyes dry. Normally, they are pretty good until their parents come out. I don’t think it will be any different this time. I know it will be a difficult day for the Fryes and it will be for Salim’s mom and dad. I know it will be difficult for Jon and Jody (Brase), too.
Being a generation once removed, will Matt’s departure be tough for you?
Well, it’s been a pleasure having him on the team because I thought this was where he would end up, but he kept dragging his feet in that spring and summer when he needed to make that decision. I came to find out that what he really wanted was to come here. It will be a special day for me, but we need to make sure we take care of business on Thursday and Sunday and then we’ll do the ceremonies afterwards.
He’s getting that against teams that are just loaded for bear against him ?- boxes and ones, double teams ?- it’s been a real challenge. The thing that I’m pleased with now is that he is not letting that bother him. He’s just playing. He’s doing a much better job of getting off screens, of reading screens, to make it difficult to guard him. He’s taken the ball to the basket a number of times, and that totally opens it up when somebody overplays him and he makes a back cut and scores on a lay-in. He’s not an easy guy to guard and it’s getting tougher because he’s so quick with that shot. You have to be right on him the second he catches the ball or it’s gone. He’s also gotten to the point where can penetrate and create space and pull up. He’s got a good midrange game.
When did the change occur?
After the Marquette game, it was obviously a case of he knew that we wouldn’t be as good without him, but we were willing to go without him if he didn’t get him focused on what we needed him to do.
Knowing Salim the way that you do, would it surprise you to hear him say that he doesn’t know what its like to play well?
I think after that one, it was a case more of he just wanted to go out, have fun and enjoy his teammates. That may not have been right after the Marquette game, it may have come more as we got into the early part of the league schedule.
What’s the difference between Salim and Channing in that regard?
The great thing about Channing is that he comes every day to play. It’s never a case where the effort’s not there. That doesn’t mean that every day is a good one. The reason that Channing has made the progress that he’s made is that he is so coachable. He’s like a sponge in terms of picking things up. That doesn’t mean we don’t get on him, but I think Channing understands that he does perform better when we get on him. I think when he was younger, we had to be careful about that because of his confidence. Now, he’s just accepts it and plays better. (Assistant coach) Josh (Pastner) has done a great job of finding the midpoint between how much you get on him and how much you encourage him.
Has Salim approached that level? Early on, Salim said that he listened to everything. Is he back to doing that?
(Early on) At that point, Salim wasn’t the focal point of the offense, either. He has pretty good players with him at that point with some good leadership. It’s different when you are the man. That was the biggest problem we had last year, was that after having the leadership of Walton, Gardner and Anderson, no one was ready to step up in that area. It wasn’t that Channing and Salim didn’t want to, but they just weren’t ready. Now, Salim is much more positive in his leadership. He understands the game, and when somebody isn’t doing their job, he will approach the guy ?- and not in a negative way that he used to. That’s part of learning how to be a leader. You have to be able to get on people to get them to do things, but you can’t get them upset. A teammate really needs to lead with positive leadership, and yet there are times that you have get mean. It just depends on the guy.
What pleases you most about Mustafa Shakur right now?
The fact that he’s been very aggressive. He’s challenging the defense right now. He’s a competitor. His leadership is getting stronger and stronger. A year from now, you’ll see the leadership coming from him. He has taken on a lot of the leadership this year.