IT'S TIME FOR my annual mid-year report card thing for the Arizona Wildcat basketball team, but it'll be so boring this year because everybody is playing really well. What fun is it to give out all good grades? Where are Sean Rooks and Joseph Blair when you need them?
All of the other papers copy my bit. I should have copyrighted it when I had the chance. But I remember I was standing in line behind Al Gore and he was taking a long time trying to patent that Internet thing. I wonder what ever became of that.
Anyway, I'm telling you, I've fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with this year's team. They're neither cocky nor tentative, just a bunch of bad-ass ballers.
Just pretend we're a private school where parents pay huge amounts in tuition. Everybody gets an "A."
Well, there are three exceptions. Ruben Douglas would get an "A" in reading because he sure was able to see the handwriting on the wall. (It read "NoPT4U," as in "No Playing Time for You!" And it was in Gilbert Arenas' handwriting.)
Overall, Douglas gets a "W," which usually stands for "Withdrew," but in this case it also stands for "Wuss" for quitting. Dude, at least put up a fight.
Luke Recker, who was here for a week or two, gets an "I." He needs one because he's used up all the other ones starting sentences. "I like to shoot. I was Mr. Basketball in Indiana. I want the headlines. I think I'm in the wrong place. I think I'll go to another state that starts with I, like maybe Iceland. No, that's a city. Wait! Iowa. Yeah, that's it. Justin Wessel told me the weather's really nice there."
Then there's Lamont Frazier, who gets a "U," as in U Idiot (which is also the title of a song on the seventh album released by The Artist Formerly Known As Prince this year). Frazier had a chance to get some decent playing time on one of the best teams in the country and he can't go to class?! What the heck?!
The one I feel really bad about is my buddy John Ash. Here's a guy who has been in the program for four years and knows every nuance of Lute Olson's butt from having to stare at it for long stretches of time while Lute patrols the sidelines. I've seen John play in practices and scrimmages and he does a good job. But when it comes to games, dude gets no clock. It's so bad, Josh Pastner dogs him.
Last year, they were looking for a backup for Jason Terry at point guard. John edged ahead of the other guys, but when Lute looked down the bench, he decided that his best option was to have Terry go for 40 minutes.
This year, with Frazier out of the picture, Ash is again the top backup for the point, but Olson is talking about using "2" guard Gilbert Arenas at the point to give Jason Gardner a breather. You get the feeling that if eight of the 12 guys were to foul out, Olson would look down the bench at Ash, then at the four guys on the floor, then at Ash, then tell the ref, "My team's on the floor."
I've always wondered something about Lute Olson. There are coaches who don't like to play walk-ons because they think it makes them look like they didn't recruit properly. If a walk-on is better than a scholarship player, maybe somebody in the coaching staff screwed up somewhere.
This is certainly not the case with Dick Tomey, who plays walk-ons all over the place. Lute, on the other hand...wait a minute! What am I doing? I'm questioning Lute Olson! What, am I nuts?!
Three guys in tuxedos are going to drive up in a white limo and take me for a long walk in the desert. I've got to find a way out of this.
Oh, I know. Lute recruits so well that his scholarship players are always appreciably better than the walk-ons, so there's no chance that the latter will out-perform the former. That was close.
Let's give out the rest of the grades:
John Ash: "A," as in Always ready to go out right after the game, because Lord knows he won't have to shower.
Gibert Arenas: "A," as in Absolutely insane. The guy got kicked out of his dorm because he left a pyramid of candy wrappers in the hall outside his room. And believe me, that's one of the least strange of the stories I've heard about him. Not a bad kid; just a real young 17-year-old.
Richard Jefferson: "A," as in Almost cost the UA its home winning streak with comments about upcoming foe BYU.
Loren Woods: "A," as in Apathetic rebounder from time to time. Still, he could be the best big man at UA since Bob Elliott, so we should probably keep him.
Rick Anderson: "A," as in Absolute hardest worker on the squad. A coach's dream.
Justin Wessel: "A," as in Goofy. I'm sorry, there's no other word for him.
Jason Gardner: "A," as in Aesthetically pleasant, except for the hair. What are you, the second coming of Malcolm X?
Luke Walton: "A," as in Accurate passer, a great trait for a big man. His dad was a great passer, too, but he liked the Grateful Dead, which sorta makes him more of a pisser than a passer.
Michael Wright: "A," as in A man among boys. I love people who love to rebound.
Josh Pastner: "A," as in Always camera ready.
Lute Olson: "A," as in All's forgiven for that walk-on stuff, right? Come on, Coach. I wrote nice things about you when you had Brock Brunkhorst at the point. I sat in an end-zone seat and suffered through the Brian Williams-Sean Rooks-Ed Stokes years.
Remember, these are just midterm grades. You'll have two big Stanford tests during the next grading period. And, as always, the final grade is what counts.