His title says head coach.
But to hear
That’s not to say there is no science to success. There most certainly is a method that leads to March Madness. All things considered, it’s not that different from the observation, hypothesis, prediction and performance that goes into defining the known world.
In this case, the world is basketball.
At this time, this is what Olson knows:
· They all seem to like each other.
“We have a very good nucleus returning with good experience,” says Olson. “We’re very pleased with the three freshmen. This will be a team with the best depth that we’ve had here in a long time. That depth is not only important in games, but even more important in practice situations because of the competition every day on the court.”
What all of this means is that the 2006-07 edition of the Arizona Wildcats will be a
deep, athletic, experienced, well-led and cohesive unit with a single goal: to win. Simply put, Olson likes this club.
It’s that competition that will help the team improve each time it takes the court. Improvement is key because those that don’t get better may not play all that often. Games are just a chance to show what has been learned in the lab where only the coaches are watching.
“My philosophy has always been that you learn the game in practice and you display what you’ve learned in the games,” says the Hall of Fame head coach.
Three of the
More important than the statistics, however, is the leadership. Olson believes the leadership will flow freely from this group.
I believe we’re going to have excellent leadership from our seniors both on and off the floor,” he says. “Mustafa now has had three years running the point and I think he’s going to do a real good job of on-court leadership from the point position. I think that leadership from the point is critical to the success of any team.”
The 6-foot-3 Shakur returns for his final season with career averages of 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists. He currently stands ninth on the
After flirting with the NBA Draft a year ago, the
“I think Mustafa really soaked up what he needed to work on,” Olson explained. “The biggest thing for Mustafa is to play to his strengths. His work ethic is second to none. He knows if the team does well, then he’s going to do well.”
Radenovic, a 6-foot-10 forward from
He is a player with the ability to score inside and out. Most importantly, he’s shown great improvement each year, and Olson expects that to continue as well.
“Ivan has made great improvements each year that he’s been here,” Olson says. “I expect that to continue. He’s a very positive kind of leader. He will make everyone else better through his play.”
Walters, UA’s tallest player at 6-foot-11, continues to develop into a productive center. The
He led the Wildcats with a 58.6 field goal percentage last year, but needs to become far more consistent in his final collegiate campaign.
“Kirk’s strength is that he plays so hard,” says Olson. “He’s a very good shooter. The challenge to him is to come out and give us a solid performance every game.”
Such solid performances will go a long way toward improving the Wildcat fortunes that saw the squad average 73.7 points per game, the program’s lowest scoring average since 1986. Chemistry is another factor, and according to Olson, this group genuinely seems to get along.
“The team chemistry is obviously very, very good,” says Olson, entering his 34th season as a collegiate head coach. “They get along well. They all are focused on team. In the end, the success of the team depends on team chemistry.
To take that a step further, Olson comments, “When you look at the outstanding teams that we’ve had, the chemistry was critical.”
One of the catalysts of such chemistry was the program’s three-day, five-game excursion to
A byproduct of posting the 5-0 record on the trip was the fact that 10 of the 12 players on the trip logged better than 17 minutes per game. Everyone got a chance to play and nearly all left with a boost of confidence.
“It was a tremendous benefit because it gave us a better chance to evaluate some of the guys,“ Olson says. “It gave us an opportunity to evaluate everyone and gave guys an opportunity to play more and get into a rhythm. I think it helped a lot from a confidence standpoint.”
One of the improvements Olson hopes this bunch of Wildcats make is in its shooting. A year ago,
“If you looked at last year’s team, the weakness was consistency in shooting,” Olson says. “I think this team is going to be a good shooting team. The longer they play at this level the more they understand what a good shot is and that extra touches lead to better shots.”
One of the key figures on the perimeter will be junior guard Jawann McClellan. A 6-foot-4 native of
In 2004-05, his lone full season of basketball, McClellan shot 46.8 percent from the field and ranked second on the club with 24 treys. Despite the fact that he missed nearly all of the last season, he will be a welcome addition to the perimeter rotation.
“Anytime someone has been out of competition, basically for the entire year, rust is always a concern,” Olson explains. “But a shooter is a shooter. I think Jawann is a good shooter. It’s like riding a bicycle ?- you never forget.”
Dillon, a 6-foot-4 guard from
Production at that clip could quickly shore up
“There is no question that the guy who benefited the most from the Canadian trip was Daniel,” says Olson. “He showed a great deal of confidence and took good shots.”
Brielmaier is a 6-foot-6 forward from
More than statistical, Brielmaier’s contributions are measured in court savvy.
“Bret is valuable to us because he plays so intelligently,” says Olson. “He understands his role and plays so hard. He has a great work ethic.”
A quintet of sophomores certainly adds depth to nearly every position. Leading the way is forward Marcus Williams. A 6-foot-7 product of Seattle, Williams averaged 13.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his debut season a year ago, including a 45.3 field goal percentage.
He ended the season with six straight games in double figures, including a 24-point, eight-rebound, four-assist performance against Villanova in the NCAA Tournament. Along the way, Williams was a Pac-10 all-Freshman selection.
“I think he made really good progress in a lot of different ways,” says Olson. “The biggest thing for him is not to try to do too much from a scoring standpoint. He’s going to have an outstanding season.”
J.P. Prince returns as a contender for point-guard duties. The 6-foot-6 product of
“J.P. sees the floor so well,” Olson says. “He’s such a good passer. With his length and athletic ability, he could be a factor at both ends of the court.
Also in the mix Is forward Fendi Onobun. The 6-foot-6
Onobun’s solid build and athleticism could make him a match-up problem.
“Fendi is so strong and so athletic,” says Olson. “He finishes well around the basket and his perimeter touch continues to improve.”
Mohamed Tangara is a player who could bolster the Wildcat front line. The 6-foot-9 forward from
“Mohamed’s game has improved a lot,” Olson says. “His touch and his footwork are all better. He’s very aggressive defensively.”
Walk-on David Bagga, a 6-foot-5 guard from Foothill Ranch,
“David is a consummate team guy,” says Olson. “He does what ever he can to make us better. He’s a great guy to have on our roster.”
“We’re very, very pleased with our three freshmen,” he says. “I like their attitudes about everything. We’re blessed to have the caliber of person and player of these three young men.”
Chase Budinger comes to
He averaged 34 points, 11 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game a year ago at
“The thing that’s so impressive about Chase physically is that he does things with such ease,” Olson quips. “It doesn’t look like it’s an effort for him to sprint the court. The other thing that’s great about him is that he’s a team guy.”
Jordan Hill, a 6-foot-9 forward from
Nic Wise, a 5-foot-9 guard from Kingwood,
Wise ranked second on the club with a 10.0 points per game average during the tour of
“I like him,” says Olson. “I like his attitude. All his team does is win games.”
As subtle as it seems,
“For the first time since 2001, we have balance back in the classes. I think that is important,” Olson says.
That balance will be put to the test early and often, as the schedule is as difficult as any in the game. In addition to the challenging Pacific-10 conference slate, the Wildcats face a relentless non-conference slate that games against
“The schedule is probably as difficult as any we’ve put together,” Olson says. “We will be battle tested to say the least.”
Olson is looking forward to his 24th season in
“I’m excited for these guys to have the kind of competition that they’ll have in practice,” Olson says. “I’m excited about the depth. This year we can put a guy in a really competitive situation every day.
“I believe it’s going to be a fun team to coach and a fun team to watch.”