High Praise For Arenas

March 27, 2001

TUCSON, Ariz. - Gilbert Arenas' game almost appears choreographed,filled with feints and jukes, deft dunks, arching jumpers, slashing cuts,crossovers and catlike steals.

His performance continues to draw accolades - from teammates, coaches, evenopponents.

The praises are piling up for the Arizona sophomore, a shooting guard whose18-point first-half surge helped propel the Wildcats past Illinois 87-81 andinto the Final Four.

His backcourt mate, point guard Jason Gardner, said Arenas, just 19, isbeginning to live up to others' expectations.

'He's been having a great season,' Gardner said. 'Toward the end of theseason, he's been one of the main reasons why this team has been doing what weare doing. He brings a lot of matchup problems - he's quick, he shoots theoutside jump shot, he can penetrate.'

After the Wildcats won to move to 27-7 and advance to Saturday's semifinalwith Michigan State (28-4), teammate Luke Walton said, 'We know what Gilbertis capable of. He does that all the time in practice.

'This was just one of those games. He does things when he drives to thelane. What he does with his body is amazing.'

Arenas' 21 points in Sunday's Midwest Regional final earned him the MostOutstanding Player award. He is Arizona's top scorer, averaging 16.5 points and3.7 rebounds, and its second-leading 3-point threat, with 68 for the season.

Coach Lute Olson at times has been on Arenas' case for taking an ill-advisedshot or two. But Olson knows his young guard has the potential.

'I think Gilbert can be as good as Gilbert wants to be,' Olson said.'Offensively, he was just unbelievable in that first half (against Illinois).And he's been coming up with some key steals here and there.

'Like I've said before, his defense has only scratched the surface of whathe can be, if we can just keep him focused on that. Because he's got greatquickness and great length, but he never played defense until he came here.

'Defense is not something you learn overnight. Potentially, I think he's asgood as any two-guard in the country.'

Arenas' play against Illinois drew praise from Illini coach Bill Self.

'He's just a fabulous player,' Self said. 'We did a poor job on him inthe first half, and he made us pay. He cuts to the basket as well as anyone inAmerica. He's certainly a terrific player.'

By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN
Associated Press Writer

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