By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001
MINNEAPOLIS -- Arizona sophomore sharpshooter Gilbert Arenas could have offered an excuse for his off-night in the championship game against Duke on Monday.
He had a dandy.
During Saturday's semifinal win against Michigan State, Arenas bruised his chest near his right (shooting) shoulder. The next day he could barely raise his hand over his head. Arenas, the Wildcats' top scorer and the Midwest Region's outstanding player, made 4 of 17 shots and finished with 10 points.
"I was wide open on half the shots, but it just wasn't falling for me," he said. "I guess I was just rushing them. I was just too excited. But who knows?"
Coach Lute Olson, however, said the injury was a factor.
"It obviously bothered him a lot," Olson said. "But I thought he competed hard."
THE NEXT LEVEL: Some suggest that Shane Battier, though a great college player, lacks the athletic prowess to be a star in the NBA. But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the pro scouts should look beyond limitations of the body in evaluating Battier.
"You can measure jumping ability, how quick a guy is and all of that," he said. "But the ability to measure heart and intelligence, leadership, all the things that coaches know are the ingredients of success, he's the best. He's just the best. The best I've ever coached. You'd be an idiot not to just gobble him up."
HARD LESSON: After a disappointing loss, Arizona stars Loren Woods and Richard Jefferson eloquently praised Olson for how he dealt with the midseason death of his wife, Bobbi, from cancer and taught them life's toughest lessons.
"All of us seniors this year came to college as boys, and we're leaving as men," Woods said. "He's taught us courage, patience, dignity for the program and dignity for yourselves and for your families."
Said Jefferson: "He went through some very tough times, and his family was really there for him. You see his family and how close-knit they are, and that's how you want to raise a family. ... Of course, he's a great basketball teacher. Look at the players that have come from his program. This year I learned so much about life and so much about how I need to be for the rest of my life."
TOURNEY TEAM: Woods and Jefferson joined Duke's Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Battier, the Final Four's outstanding player, on the Final Four all-tournament team.