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There are no seniors. There is only one returning starter. At
first glance, the Arizona prospectus seems like the sort of
fodder coach Lute Olson would need if he were penning a college
hoops horror novel under the same title as Stephen King's
latest tome, Desperation.

So to avert a grisly Pac-10 death in 1996-97, Olson inked a plot
twist last November, signing one of the nation's best recruiting
classes--led by point guard prodigy Mike Bibby (page 178).
"They're unbelievable," junior guard Miles Simon, Olson's top
returning protagonist, says of the freshmen.

True, but with the departure of five seniors, finding a leader
remains a pressing concern. Simon (13.2 points, 4.1 assists and
4.0 rebounds per game) leaps from the page. "I want people to
follow me," he says.

Such confidence comes as no surprise from a player who drilled a
65-foot buzzer-beater for a 79-76 win over Cincinnati on Feb.
11, and who owns a 40-inch vertical leap. "Everybody will say
this team is too young and not ready, but I think we'll surprise
a lot of teams," says Simon. "We're a lot more mature than
people think."

They'll need to be if they are to continue Arizona's winning
tradition. The Wildcats have appeared in 12 consecutive NCAA
tournaments (the second-longest active streak, behind North
Carolina's 22), been ranked in the top 15 in the final AP poll
for nine straight years and have gone 131-9 at the McKale Center
since 1987-88.

Simon and 6'5" junior swingman Michael Dickerson give Olson a
solid base for continued success. Dickerson (11.6 ppg),
Arizona's sixth man last season, toured Japan this summer with a
group of Pac-10 All-Stars after leading the Wildcats in scoring
(18.7 ppg) during last March's drive to the Sweet 16. Simon
averaged 18.0 points in the tournament. "They're going to be
counted on for substantial time," Olson says. "Everyone will be
counted on."

But lest we forget, Bibby's is the name in neon. Son of former
UCLA and NBA player Henry, the 6'2" guard makes those around him
better with his precision passing. Last year Bibby averaged 34.3
points, 8.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game while
leading Phoenix's Shadow Mountain High to the state title.
Sophomore three-point ace Jason Terry, who wears his socks to
the knees, bolsters one of the quickest backcourts in the land.

Up front, sophomores A.J. Bramlett, who averaged just 1.9 points
per game, and Donnell Harris, who had more personal fouls (17)
than points (16), must improve. Until they do, Bennett Davison
must shoulder the load. He averaged 19 points, 15 rebounds and 5
blocks at West Valley junior college in Saratoga, Calif., last
year. Eugene Edgerson, a 6'7" forward from St. Augustine High in
New Orleans, adds depth.

If Stephen Jackson of Virginia's Oak Hill Academy gets the
requisite ACT score, Arizona could add the 6'7" forward
(declared ineligible by the NCAA clearinghouse) in late
December. Either way, the Wildcats will have to grow up fast.

--Kelvin C. Bias

COLOR PHOTO: BRUCE L. SCHWARTZMAN Simon is the Wildcats' veteran hand. [Miles Simon in game]

Coach: Lute Olson
Career record: 508-193 (23 seasons)
Record at Arizona: 316-101 (13 seasons)
1995-96 record: 26-7 (final ranking: 11th)
Pac-10 record: 13-5 (second)


PG Mike Bibby, 6'2", Fr.
The next Jason Kidd?
SG *Miles Simon, 6'5", Jr.
Wildcats' free throw leader with 76.4%.
SF Michael Dickerson, 6'5", Jr.
Led team in scoring eight times in '95-96
PF Bennett Davison, 6'8", Jr.
California juco player of year last season
C A.J. Bramlett, 6'11", Soph.
Played in 30 of Arizona's 33 games

*returning starter


Nov. 22 vs. North Carolina (at Springfield, Mass.)
Lute vs. Dean in battle of NCAA tourney regulars

Dec. 7 vs. Utah (at Anaheim)
Pac-10 meets WAC in Wooden Classic matchup

Dec. 9 vs. Texas
Wildcats face second powerhouse in three days

Dec. 21 at Michigan (at Auburn Hills)
Rematch of '95 preseason NIT semifinal

Jan. 18 at UCLA
Another Bibby plays at Pauley Pavilion