Whenever Salim Stoudamire, the Wildcats' recovering 'tude-aholic,
falls off the wagon and pouts during practice, assistant coach
Rodney Tention goes into his routine. He reaches into his pocket,
pulls out the pacifier he borrowed from his infant son and offers
it to the junior guard who may be the most enigmatic talent in
Need proof? Two months after Stoudamire's 32-point tour de force
in a win at Kansas last January, he sulked through a 78-75 loss
to the Jayhawks in the West Regional final, scoring four points
on just four shots. "The difference in the two Kansas games was
Salim," says coach Lute Olson. "It's about controlling his
emotions. I've told him, 'For us to be a decent team this year,
we need you to be consistent.' He's our best defender, he's the
best shooter we've had since Steve Kerr, and he's very tough
going to the bucket. But he's been his own worst enemy." Olson
sighs. "Really, it's up to him."
Stoudamire says he's a changed man, one who has the chops to fill
the leadership vacuum created by the departures of Luke Walton,
Jason Gardner and Rick Anderson. "I've got to focus on being a
leader," he says. "It's hard, because when things aren't going my
way I tend to have a scowl on my face and get down on myself. If
I'm positive, then I'm capable of doing good things consistently.
I think I'm maturing a lot."
That's imperative because, in addition to having no senior
starters, this team has a freshman point guard (Mustafa Shakur).
Arizona also has a 6'4" power forward (sophomore Hassan Adams),
which means the starting five is exceptionally quick but
frighteningly small. (It's no wonder that Olson has been
experimenting with "four-out" attacks and the frenetic secondary
break popularized by Roy Williams at Kansas.)
Nobody denies that Arizona, with the nimble post play of junior
center Channing Frye and the athleticism of Adams and sophomore
forward Andre Iguodala, has the most talent in the Pac-10. But
their fate will depend on whether Stoudamire, their best player,
lives up to his word. --G.W.
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT WACHTER/ICON SMI ALL THE TOOLS Stoudamire is Arizona's best player at both ends of the floor, but can he fill the leadership void?
2002-03 RECORD 28-4 (17-1, 1st in Pac-10)
TOURNAMENT Lost to Kansas in Elite Eight
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF Andre Iguodala 6'6" So. 6.4 ppg
PF Hassan Adams 6'4" So. 9.1 ppg
C Channing Frye 6'11" Jr. 8.0 rpg
SG Salim Stoudamire 6'1" Jr. 13.0 ppg
PG Mustafa Shakur 6'3" Fr. 6.8 apg*
an opposing coach's view
"Every year they just reload.... SALIM STOUDAMIRE is a great
defender and he's automatic from three-point range, but some
people think he's selfish.... MUSTAFA SHAKUR is a good passer and
can run a team. He's a freshman, though, and people will
challenge him to make shots from outside.... There's a lack of
depth at power forward, but if they go small they're really
athletic and they can create havoc on the defensive end. They run
a tough 1-3-1 zone.... CHANNING FRYE has gotten better every year
in the low post. You'll see teams try to get him in foul trouble,
because ISAIAH FOX'S conditioning is a huge question mark."
Points per game scored by the Wildcats last season, which made
them the first Pac-10 team to lead the nation in scoring.