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19 Arizona These Wildcats are young, but they've proved they're ready for the big time

Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001

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Nov. 19, 2001

College Basketball Preview 2001-02

19 Arizona These Wildcats are young, but they've proved they're ready for the big time

On Aug. 21, in the early-morning hours following a long first day
of school, the members of Arizona's gem of a recruiting class
decided to sneak into the McKale Center and have an impromptu
shootaround. Grabbing some basketballs, the five freshmen began
to talk about the upcoming season and the expectation that the
Wildcats might be in for a tough time, having lost four starters
(three with eligibility remaining) to the NBA draft. "We should
be ranked," said Dennis Latimore, a 6'8" forward. "I can't wait
to prove everybody wrong," chimed in Will Bynum, a 5'10" guard.
It didn't take them long. Last week Arizona, with only two
players who saw significant action on last season's team that
went to the NCAA title game, upset a pair of Top 10 teams,
Maryland and Florida.

This is an article from the Nov. 19, 2001 issue Original Layout

It took two seemingly unrelated events on March 29, 1983, for
this team to come together. The first was the introduction that
day of Lute Olson, then 48 years old, as the Wildcats' new
coach. Shortly thereafter, five miles away at the Tucson Medical
Center, eight-pound, 15-ounce Isaiah Philip-Francis Fox was born
to Nils Fox, an offensive lineman on the Arizona football team,
and his then wife, Michelle. Eighteen years, 447 wins and one
national championship later, Olson is a coaching legend, and
little Isaiah Fox--who timed his arrival to Olson's, not
emerging until three days after Michelle's water broke--has
grown into the Wildcats' 6'9", 265-pound freshman starting center.

While it might seem that Fox was destined to play for Olson, it
almost didn't happen. In October 2000 Arizona secured an oral
commitment from Rick Rickert, a forward from Duluth, Minn.,
considered one of the top 10 players in the country, as its fifth
and final recruit. Fox was left to choose between California and
Connecticut. But Rickert changed his mind, and on Nov. 13 he
instead signed with Minnesota. Fox had his scholarship. "I had to
take a couple of deep breaths when I got the news," he says.
Since arriving on campus in August, he has dropped 21 pounds and
earned the starting job by being the team's top rebounder in
practice. "He has impressed us more than we might have expected,"
Olson says of the least heralded of his newcomers. Joining Fox in
the starting lineup is his roommate, Bynum, who scored 16 points
in the upset of Florida. Salim Stoudamire, another Arizona legacy
(he's the cousin of former All-America Damon), comes off the
bench and is the Wildcats' best on-the-ball defender. Latimore
and Channing Frye are frontline reinforcements.

As good as the freshmen already are, Arizona's fortunes rest
largely on the play of its three juniors. Jason Gardner flirted
briefly with the NBA, but he's back and played 79 out of 80
minutes in the two wins last week, totaling 46 points and nine
assists. Luke Walton fills in whatever gaps arise. ("I laugh at
people who say he's a role player," says Florida coach Billy
Donovan.) And Rick Anderson, who redshirted last season, is the
Wildcats' top outside shooter; he scored Arizona's final three
buckets in the 75-71 upset of Florida.

Arizona will no longer surprise opponents. That's fine with the
freshmen. "We look at this as just the beginning," says Fox.

--Albert Lin

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN In only his second college game Fox pulled down eight rebounds to help Arizona, with five freshmen contributing, upset highly ranked Florida.

STARTING LINEUP

POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT

SF Rick Anderson 6'9" Jr. 4.5 ppg*
PF Luke Walton 6'8" Jr. 3.9 rpg
C Isaiah Fox 6'9" Fr. 12.0 rpg[%]
SG Will Bynum 5'10" Fr. 27.0 ppg[%]
PG Jason Gardner 5'10" Jr. 4.1 apg[#]

2000-01 record: 28-8 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 2
*Redshirted (stats for 1999-2000)
[#]Returning starter
[%]As high school senior

REPORT CARD

GRADUATION RATE: 13%
AVERAGE NUMBER OF WINS: 26
NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORD: 21-9
TRANSFERS: 7
MCDONALD'S ALL-AMERICANS: 5
PLAYERS IN NBA: 11
COMMENT: Three players have committed agent-related
transgressions in last six years. Arizona had to return $45,362
it earned during 1999 NCAAs after discovering guard Jason Terry
had accepted more than $11,000 from agents. In March 1995 guard
Damon Stoudamire was suspended for one game and forward Ben
Davis was suspended for four games, also for accepting improper
benefits. Only North Carolina has more former players in NBA,
but coach Lute Olson hasn't done as good a job developing
students.
GRADE: C