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Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

Jayhawks’ Miles to get up-close look at Arizona

December 1, 2001

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Talk about tough choices ...

Point guard deluxe Aaron Miles narrowed his college candidates to two schools last fall Kansas and Arizona and spent some sleepless nights mulling the biggest decision of his young life.

After much soul searching, the 6-foot-1 McDonald's All-American from Portland (Ore.) Jefferson High went with the Jayhawks over the Wildcats.

"Both have great coaches and great tradition and great players. I prayed hard about it," said Miles, who today will find out what it'd been like had he signed with 'Zona.

He'll start at the point for the No. 8-ranked Jayhawks (3-1) in their nonconference clash against No. 4 Arizona (3-0).

Tipoff is 1:30 p.m., Central time, with a live telecast on channels 5 and 13.

"I'm looking forward to playing there," said Miles, who averages 6.5 points and 5.5 assists. "I'll have family and friends at the game and that's always exciting. Arizona has some good guards. They've got a good team. It'll be exciting to play there and see what it's like."

Miles will be guarding junior floor general Jason Gardner, who averages 24.7 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He's helped the Wildcats, who started the season unranked, to victories over No. 2-ranked Maryland, No. 6 Florida and No. 23 Texas. The first two victories assured the Wildcats a Coaches Vs. Classic title in New York. The third came at rowdy Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

"I think a lot of people expected us to be 0-3," Arizona coach Lute Olson said, giving much of the credit to Gardner.

The three early victories pushed Arizona from unranked to fourth in the AP poll.

Now the Wildcats today begin a three-game, seven-day swing against Kansas, No. 2 Illinois and unranked Purdue.

"This three-game stretch is another killer within one week's period of time," Olson said.

Good coaches like rugged schedules, but isn't this one a bit ambitious?

"I've always said we want to play a difficult schedule and we do," KU coach Roy Williams said. "(But) Arizona ... they have a difficult schedule this year, they really do."

It was a schedule set up when Olson thought he'd have Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas and Michael Wright on the floor. All decided to leave Arizona for the NBA with eligibility remaining. The 'Cats also lost senior Loren Woods to graduation.

"The schedule is set two to three years in advance," Olson said. "We assumed it was going to be a veteran ballclub. The schedule is tough and what makes it even tougher is that it is early."

He's not sure his club is ready for the likes of Kansas, even at home

"Kansas hits you with so many surprises," Olson said. "Fullcourt pressure, halfcourt traps, things that later in the season you are more capable of handling."

He hopes his starting frontcourt of Luke Walton (6-8), Rick Anderson (6-9) and Isaiah Fox (6-9) can slow KU bookend forwards Drew Gooden and Nick Collison.

"It's as good a twosome in the country," Olson said. "They can score facing up. They are good in the post. They run the floor well. Matchups there will be a key for us.

"A lot of times we'll have freshmen guarding those two guys," he said of Fox, Channing Frye and Dennis Latimore.

KU coach Roy Williams also is concerned about matchups. Kirk Hinrich (6-foot-3) may spend some time guarding the 6-9 Anderson, who averages 11.7 points a game.

"We have a tremendous matchup problem," Williams said. "I mean is Kirk going to guard Luke Walton or Anderson? That will create problems for them on the other end as well, but you can do more things to guard a smaller guy like play zone, but how do you keep a guy off the backboards."

As in any closely matched contest, it could come down to whether the visiting team KU and freshmen Miles and Langford can keep their poise in an unfriendly setting, in this case the 14,545-seat McKale Center.

"We're going to catch their best shot," Williams said. "It's their first home game of the year after those three great victories. They will be excited. I hope we will be the same way."

"It's our first road game. Road games are so much tougher," Collison said.

"It's a major test for us," Gooden noted. "It's not a statement (game), but a test. Arizona has a great deal of toughness and a great deal of heart for a team that lost four starters now playing in the NBA.

"It says a lot for that team to not be ranked at the beginning of the season and now being ranked third in the country. We're going to learn a lot about our team. It's sort of a chance to redeem ourselves (after losing to Ball State). We can find out whether we should be ranked or not."

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