The Arizona Wildcats are in a bit of an identity crisis with just a few days remaining before the regular season tips off.
Last season, when the team needed a basket, they turned to Derrick Williams or Lamont 'MoMo' Jones. Neither plays for the Wildcats anymore. And while he was more of a sixth or seventh man off the bench, Jamelle Horne played a big role in his senior season and his experience will be missed in 2011.
In two exhibition games against Seattle Pacific and Humboldt State, the Wildcats outscored their opponents by a combined score of 128-120. That's not good.
All things considered, defense is not the problem for the Wildcats. Kyle Fogg is among the best defenders in the country as a senior and both of the freshmen guards, Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson, have earned rave reviews from the coaching staff. Defending the basket and the paint is a work in progress, but that is something more mentally demanding than it is physical. That aspect of the defense should improve as the year progresses.
The issue for Arizona will be scoring the ball. Whether it be in transition, in the half-court set, or at the free throw line, the team is lacking production right now. And turnovers are being committed at an extremely high and worrisome rate.
This brings us to Brendon Lavender.
Despite his name being rumored among transfer candidates seemingly year after year, Lavender has stayed with the program through thick and thin. Now a senior, it is his time to step up while Kevin Parrom continues to recover from a gun shot wound.
Sean Miller has publicly stated that Lavender is the team's best and purest shooter. His production and effort in practice has always been consistent, but translating it to the court once the bright lights come on has always been an issue. The team needs this to change in 2011.
Albeit against a Division-II opponent, Lavender's three-pointer against Humboldt State rallied the team in the first half and led to a 14-4 run that would give the Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish. In the Red-Blue Game, he was among the team leaders in points scored and was lethal from behind the arc.
Without Parrom in the lineup, Arizona is not sharp-shooting team. Lavender changes that whenever he's on the floor. For that reason alone, he needs to play more minutes once the regular season rolls around. Maybe he misses a few shots, but the team needs one of their senior leaders to step up if they hope to make a deep run this season.
What player better than the best shooter on the team?