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SPORTS EXTRA / NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT | MIDWEST
NOTES

Performances Could Be Telling for Pro Prospects

March 26, 2001|STEVE HENSON

SAN ANTONIO — It's a sign of the times. Although only sophomores, guards Gilbert Arenas of Arizona and Frank Williams of Illinois, are under the microscope of NBA scouts.

Both have expressed more than casual interest in making themselves available for the June 27 draft. A high-profile game such as the regional final Sunday gave them a chance to display their skills.

Judging from this snapshot, Arenas is ready for a paycheck. He put on an explosive display in the first half, scoring 18 points on pull-up jump shots, twisting drives in the lane and backdoor layups.

"He moves without the ball better than any player in the country," Illinois Coach Bill Self said.

Arenas, from Van Nuys Grant High, needs consistency. He hopes the scouts were in the refreshment line and missed three plays. He dribbled off his foot out of bounds, shot an airball on a three-point attempt and fumbled away a pass under the basket.

Williams, whose stock went up with a 30-point effort against Kansas on Friday, scored nine while guarded by 6-foot-7 Richard Jefferson and 6-8 Luke Walton. Players that tall who possess guard skills are sprinkled throughout the NBA.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Williams said. "I'm not thinking about that right now. I've got some time to think."

*

It's tough being a dispassionate journalist when your son is on the court. CBS analyst Bill Walton knows.

Although he glossed over the troubles Arizona had early this season, most of his commentary during the game was unbiased. But when the buzzer sounded and the Wildcats--including his son, Luke--hugged and celebrated their victory, Walton plopped into his seat and cried.

A cameraman tried to capture the moment, but Walton shooed him away and wiped his eyes.

*

Loren Woods was supposed to get sliced, diced and pureed by the rough-and-tumble Illini front court. So much for conventional wisdom.

Woods, a rail-thin 7-1 senior, dominated the paint, blocking seven shots, taking five rebounds and scoring 18 points.

Illinois center Marcus Griffin was 0 for 6 shooting and 6-10 forward Brian Cook made two of four. Both players fouled out, as did four of their teammates. "[Woods] blocked some shots and changed a few shots," Illini forward Damir Krupalija said. "We didn't take it to him like we could have."

Woods played well throughout the regional, averaging 15.8 points and shooting 57.1%.

*

Arizona, 19-2 since Jan. 11, doesn't feel like a No. 2-seeded team heading into its semifinal game against Michigan State, seeded No. 1 in the South Regional.

"It's going to be a super Final Four," Arizona Coach Lute Olson said. "Michigan State is similar to Illinois in many ways. . . . I don't think our guys ever really put much credence in the seedings. We always thought we could play with anybody."

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