• Damon's cousin Salim puts his own talent to work for Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. Ñ Not the problem child that Portland once knew, Salim Stoudamire takes directions well at the University of Arizona.

Aptly, 'Lute told me if I'm open, shoot it,' Stoudamire says, of Wildcats coach Lute Olson. 'I got the green light.'

Literally, Stoudamire, a sophomore who grew up in North Portland prepped at Lincoln High for one year and Lake Oswego High for three, could be the most coachable player on the Arizona basketball team.

Stoudamire went to Arizona with a 'reputation' of being hard to coach, assistant Jim Rosborough says. But, he defied it by displaying the work ethic of his cousin Damon, a fairly decent player for the Wildcats in the 1990s. 'Tireless' and 'committed,' Rosborough says, describe Salim Stoudamire, who earned last season's Pacific-10 Conference freshman of the year honors. 'A really pleasant kid,' Rosborough says.

He's also a pleasant kid and a heckuva shooter who could help Arizona topple Oregon in the Pac-10 this season. The Wildcats, 24-10 last season after winning the Pac-10 tournament and making the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, return 10 letter winners, and they've added four quality freshmen, including Portland's Chris Rodgers.

Taking cues from cousin

Practice for the Wildcats and other Pac-10 teams, including Oregon, starts Saturday. Stoudamire started 28 of 34 games last year opposite point guard Jason Gardner. He averaged 12.8 points, and his 3-point shooting (.453) ranked among the Pac-10 leaders. He scored 29 points on 9-of-10 shooting in the Pac-10 title game. He led the Pac-10, and ranked fourth nationally, in free-throw shooting at .904.

Not bad for somebody who claims never to practice free throws. 'It's an open shot, and nobody's guarding you,' he says. 'It's only 15 feet away.' Stoudamire spent the summer in Portland, training under the tutelage of Erin Cowan, one of Damon Stoudamire's buddies. He needed to improve his ball handling and shooting off the dribble. His shooting when open is refined after years of shooting baskets in the back yard of his North Portland home.

At times, Stoudamire might be asked to play point guard. If he wants to make the NBA, it'll probably be as a point guard, considering he's 6-1 and 178 pounds. 'An NBA team is not going to put me at the '2' guard,' he says.

'In our system, he gets to handle the ball,' Rosborough says. 'Like Oregon, a lot of our stuff is off the dribble and on penetration.

'While Jason is here, he'll be the off-guard, though. Could be the backup at the point. He's reliable. He understands the value of the ball.'

Sounds a lot like Damon Stoudamire. Salim takes a lot of advice from Damon, almost daily. The Arizona people say Salim is much better at shooting than his cousin, but even the younger Stoudamire admits, 'He's a real warrior, and that's what I'm trying to be.

'I've stolen a lot of his moves. I pattern my game after him. He's more of an off-the-dribble shooter, and I'm more of a set shot, but I've been working off the dribble.' For good measure, the left-handed Salim wears No. 20 and often sports the same facial hair and jewelry as his famous cousin, the point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers.

'He does have Damon's work ethic,' says Rosborough, an assistant for 23 years under Olson. 'He's maybe a little more driven than Damon. A driven kid. He really works at his game.' Another plus? 'A nasty, in-your-face defender,' the UA coach says.

Loaded with talent

Stoudamire has been trying to mentor Chris Rodgers some, too. Rodgers, who averaged 26 points last year at Wilson High, has been going through the adjustment period at college, meeting and befriending new people. 'He's just starting to open up a little more,' Stoudamire says of Rodgers. 'He needs to open up and socialize with people.'

The Wildcats have seven guards on their roster, and Gardner, Stoudamire and Will Bynum are certainties to play. The 6-3 Rodgers, who says he stands 6-5 in tennis shoes, and fellow freshman Hassan Adams, a 6-4 freshman from Los Angeles, will be competing for playing time. The subject of redshirting was not broached between Arizona coaches and Rodgers during the recruitment, but Rosborough admits, 'We've got some perimeter people. We sit here with numbers.'

Adams probably will play small forward, allowing Rodgers to play as a true freshman at both point and '2' guard. He wants to play, especially after gaining NCAA clearance to play Ñ he didn't hit an entrance exam standard, but had a high enough GPA to become eligible. 'I'm looking forward to my game growing and testing my skills,' Rodgers says. 'Most definitely, you get to this level, it's a job.'

Rodgers says the Wildcats have unbelievable talent. 'We're like the Trail Blazers,' he says. 'We're stacked. We can go with a lot of lineups.' Stoudamire goes one step further in his appraisal of the Wildcats. 'I think we're going to be the national champions,' he says.

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