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October 12, 2006After a season in which everything that could go wrong, went wrong, Arizona's 2006-07 team is in good spirits with official practices only days away.
Maybe they're happy because experts are predicting this group of Wildcats to compete for a national championship. Perhaps they're excited because the team projects to be one of the most fun to watch in the Lute Olson-era.
Or, maybe the guys just actually like each other this year.
"Last year we had some problems," admitted junior guard Daniel Dillon, "but this is the best team chemistry we've had since I've been here. It's way, way above last year."
"The chemistry is probably the best since I've been here," said senior Ivan Radenovic. "We didn't have (chemistry) the past couple years since I came here. This time it's going to be at a high level."
We'll let bygones be bygones and not go into depth regarding the issues Arizona dealt with last season, but everyone on this year's team seems genuinely happy.
That's something you haven't been able to say in the past, especially because there were certain players with their own agendas.
"This team has only one goal," said Radenovic. "No one thinks about the NBA."
Those who have watched Arizona's pre-season practices know what that goal is, because the players say it after each huddle. The plan is to get to Atlanta, the host of the 2007 Final Four.
"Everyone on the team has one goal," said sophomore Marcus Williams, who projects to be one of the nation's top players this season. "We say it before every practice and we say it when we're in practice.
"Everyone is on the same page and that's what we expect out of each other. We come here to practice and when someone is slacking off we get on them because we know that's not helping us to get to where we want to go.
"We had some hardships last year, as far as not winning as many games as we wanted to, and that's really motivated us."
Freshmen Nic Wise, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill have no doubt heard stories about the way things were last year. However, since they've gotten to campus, everyone has been getting along.
"Chemistry is great," said Hill. "Everyone gets along and knows their role on the court."
"We all get along great," added Wise.
Most importantly, Olson has seen the chemistry change and is happy about the differences between this year and the last.
"You always go into every year wondering how this is going to work out," Olson said. "From day one, these guys have been on the same page. They encourage, whether the guy's on the other team or not.
"You just don't see negative things happening on the court. You see everyone helping with the development of confidence in the individual players and in the team. I feel as good about that as any team we've had here."
Last year Arizona had the talent, but chemistry kept the Wildcats from achieving their goals. With the chemistry in place, the sky is the limit for this UA team.
"We're trying to get to the Final Four and win it all," says sophomore forward Fendi Onobun. "I think we have a great team. We're very deep, talented and I think this is the year for us."