September 22, 2006

2006-07 team appears at Wildcat Dream Invitational

Arizona's 2006-07 basketball season is getting closer to tipping off and the Wildcats celebrated the past, future and present on Thursday night at the Bank of Tucson Wildcat Dream Invitational, an event thats main purpose is to raise money for charities such as the Women's Cancer Program at the Arizona Cancer Center.

The night started off with UA basketball and football play-by-play announcer - and cancer survivor - Dave Sitton, welcoming those in attendance, before inviting Steve Kerr to the stage.

Kerr, who probably hasn't cut his hair since he was last seen on TNT towards the end of the last NBA season, talked about head coach Lute Olson's response to his new 'do.

"He told me my hair looks exactly the way it did when I first got here," Kerr laughed.

Kerr went on to praise Olson and the UA basketball players, a group he said is extremely easy to get along with off the court.

Sitton took the stage again and introduced Arizona's freshmen class - Chase Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill. Budinger did most of the talking, telling the story about his tonsils being removed. Wise bragged about his newfound freedom in college and Hill talked about how big Arizona's campus is.

Up next were the UA sophomores. When asked for the sophomore class to come to the stage, Marcus Williams, J.P. Prince, Fendi Onobun and David Bagga quickly ran to the front of the room.

Mohamed Tangara took a few seconds longer to remember he was actually a sophomore, and he ran up to join his classmates. Jawann McClellan, still waiting for the NCAA to officially declare him a redshirt sophomore, decided to stick around and wait for the juniors.

Sitton gave the microphone to Bagga so he could introduce himself, but Prince took it away so he could interview the guys. Unfortunately, Prince only got through Bagga, before Onobun took the mic away from him.

Williams, Prince, Onobun and Bagga did a lot of joking around, but briefly talked about what they accomplished over the summer.

The sophomores left the stage and the juniors - McClellan, Daniel Dillon and Bret Brielmaier replaced them. Tangara decided he was a junior, as well as a sophomore (his academic standing is a junior), so he stayed up as well to help with a charity auction.

Sitton asked McClellan and Dillon about the status of their injuries. McClellan said he feels great and that he started practice on Wednesday. Dillon said he should be back from a stress fracture in his foot within the next two weeks.

McClellan poked fun at some of his younger teammates, many of whom claimed themselves as business majors.

"I may not be a business major, but I plan on being a business man," said McClellan.

Brielmaier was asked by Sitton who he could attribute his success as a Wildcat to.

"I'd say good coaching, but that would be a lie," Brielmaier joked.

Everyone laughed, before Brielmaier went on to brag about his work ethic and other reasons contributing to how far he's come since arriving in Tucson.

Sitton gave Brielmaier one more chance to give credit to someone other than himself and he painfully answered with "Coach Olson."

The seniors were up next and Mustafa Shakur and Ivan Radenovic had a good time poking fun at Kirk Walters's beard. Shakur talked about going to the NBA pre-draft camp to see where he stood in the mind of NBA scouts, and that he was back with the goal in mind to win a national championship.

After the seniors took their seats, Coach Olson came up and started talking about the importance of the Wildcat Dream Invitational and how much the event meant to him because of the loss of his wife Bobbi Olson to cancer.

Olson spent some time talking about this year's squad, saying that he really feels that this team will win it all. He talked about a meeting he had with Shakur, Radenovic and Williams and that they all agreed that the team will be cutting down the nets in Atlanta.

"We determined that this is going to be the year," said Olson.

Olson talked about what a joy it is to coach the current group of players and said that the guys had great chemistry together.

"It's a talented group and it's a fun group," said Olson. "Everyday we have the opportunity to work with these guys, we leave the court with a smile on our face. This will be a fun, fun group. I think this will be a year to remember."

Part of the Wildcat Dream Invitational is a Friday golf event that Olson usually participates in. Unfortunately, he can't play this year because he has some recruiting to attend to.

"We'll be recruiting in San Diego," Olson said, "to seal the foundation for three years from now. We'll be back on Saturday to see the U of A kick USC's tails."

The Wildcat Dream Invitational continues on Friday with a day that includes lunch, a golf tournament and dinner.

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