For the Wildcats to be top cats, Salim Stoudamire's shooting and head must be straight
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.
-- Phil Taylor