Whenever Salim Stoudamire heads to the bench, Arizona fans are likely to wonder whether it's for rest or a reprimand. A talented but headstrong senior shooting guard, Stoudamire has been suspended or benched three times in the last two seasons for unspecified behavior that he calls "immature actions." He will have to grow up quickly if the Wildcats are going to bounce back from a tumultuous and disappointing season. They were third in the Pac-10--their worst finish in seven years--and fell to Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA tournament. "It's no secret," says assistant coach Jim Rosborough, "we had some knuckleheads last year."
Stoudamire wasn't the only player who occasionally answered to that description--forward Andre Iguodala, now a Philadelphia 76ers rookie, was talking on a cellphone minutes before Arizona took the floor for a Pac-10 tournament game--but he was the most notorious offender after coach Lute Olson suspended him for a February game against Washington, which the Wildcats lost. "I probably deserved it," Stoudamire says. "The last two years I started disagreeing with Coach, and we had some problems. But now I'm trying to get back to the way things were my freshman year, when I just listened to every word he said and did what he asked me to." Olson will ask him for aggressive perimeter defense as well as deadly outside shooting: The 6'1" Stoudamire hit 41.5% of his threes last season and averaged 16.3 points, second on the team.
Although Stoudamire exhibited some of the shortcomings that plagued Arizona as a team, including uninspired defense and imprudent shot selection, he usually responded positively to Olson's discipline. In Stoudamire's first game after the Washington defeat he scored 21 points in a victory over Washington State, then vowed he would never again let his teammates down by getting suspended. If Stoudamire makes good on that promise, the Wildcats should have a more serene, and more successful, season. --P.T.
2003-04 RECORD: 20-10 (11-7, 3rd in Pac-10)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Seton Hall in 1st round
Olson loves to gun the engine; in Shakur, Adams, Stoudamire and Frye, he has high-octane fuel.
ENEMY LINES an opposing coach's view
"They have to defend better than they did last year, when they were trying to outscore you to win. That said, I don't think there's a wingman in the country who would be comfortable being guarded by Hassan Adams.... Mustafa Shakur runs this team with real poise. His shooting is his biggest weakness.... When Salim Stoudamire is on, they can beat anyone, but he has to learn to manage his frustrations.... You used to be able to control Channing Frye inside, but he's added so many offensive moves that he's become hard to guard.... Isaiah Fox is a space eater who doesn't back down from a fight."
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
Stoudamire can lift his team with his streak shooting or hurt it by acting like what one coach calls a "knucklehead."