Arizona basketball: Bejarano finds way to contribute

2011-02-13T00:00:00Z 2014-07-24T09:57:52Z Arizona basketball: Bejarano finds way to contributeBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 13, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Once the Arizona Wildcats started playing games without Daniel Bejarano this season, Ray Arvizu Jr. figured his phone would ring and a difficult conversation would follow.

"Early on, I thought he'd call and talk about other schools," said Arvizu, Bejarano's mentor and a former travel-team coach. "But that never happened."

It was a natural assumption to make.

How does a guy go from leading his high school to two straight state titles, to playing in the NBA Top 100 camp, to being a Top 75 overall prospect in the class of 2010, to riding the bench in college and … not think about transferring?

Even now, late in the season, when Bejarano will return home tonight after ASU hosts the UA - and the former Phoenix North High School star won't play a significant role in the game.

Maybe it helps if you have a strong support system.

"I have not discussed going to another program as an option," said Bejarano's mother, Barbara Butler. "I raised him as, if you start something, you're going to finish it, and I honestly believe Arizona is the school for him and the system for him. I don't believe Sean (Miller) will give up on him, and I'm putting my hope on that."

The immediate future and even the longer-term future are not clear. Miller says Bejarano doesn't have a chance to break into his rotation this season, he's signed a highly regarded shooting guard for next season in Gilbert's Nick Johnson, and Miller is expected to lose none of the Wildcats' current guards.

Yet Miller has also praised Bejarano's conditioning efforts, his work ethic and his attitude, three factors that might give him hope.

"His attitude is nothing short of amazing, considering he doesn't play, so he deserves a lot of credit," Miller said. "Sometimes in the long haul of the season, when you have a guy in his role that doesn't play, who has that attitude, he makes life a lot easier for everybody. He really does.

"To a man, if you ask anyone on our team, they'll tell you that he's just really unselfish and a great kid, and he's working hard to become a better player."

What that can mean is that instead of guarding somebody like ASU's Ty Abbott, Bejarano might get to "be" Abbott in practice, so that a teammate such as Kyle Fogg can prepare for him.

And while efforts to reach Bejarano through UA were unsuccessful last week, Miller indicated Bejarano doesn't complain about his role.

"He's one of the nicest kids that I've ever been around," Miller said. "He's a great teammate. There's not a day that goes by that he doesn't smile and he helps us incredibly in practice. He's both representing the other team and giving great effort."

Bejarano actually had a chance to be on that other team tonight. After he decommitted to Texas in the fall of 2009, Bejarano's recruitment came down to ASU and the UA.

If he had chosen ASU, especially considering the Sun Devils' rash of injuries this season, he might have had a chance to play a significant role.

"Daniel was a very good high school player," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "He's somebody we looked at from the time he was a young guy. Being so close, we were very familiar with him and the situation."

But Sendek said only that "there's a lot of variables" to whether he felt Bejarano would play right away in college, and Phoenix North coach Joseph Bustos said it can go either way.

"You always hope that when they go in, they will have an instant impact," Bustos said. "But I've had players as many times go in and not play as much as they wanted, and Arizona is No. 15 in the country."

Not only that, but the Wildcats entered the season particularly loaded with experience and talent at shooting guard, where Fogg has proved to the team's top perimeter defender and Brendon Lavender has been a valued shooter off the bench.

Both of those players had two years of experience over Bejarano, and a year under Miller, quickly moving ahead on the depth chart as preseason practices progressed. And defense, say those around Bejarano, has been a particular need for improvement.

"It definitely has been a wake-up call," Butler said. "When you go to a high-major Division I program and get a good coach, it is definitely a change in scenery. To come in and try to take minutes from another player definitely gets stressful."

However, Butler said, the other Wildcats have kept encouraging Bejarano, as have assistant coach James Whitford and Miller.

Through them, Butler and Arvizu said, Bejarano has instead focused on the environment around him and individual long-term improvement that, someday, might get him on the court.

"He wants to be part of a winning program, a team that's turned it around, and winning the Pac-10," Arvizu said. "The thing about him is he didn't pick a school based on who's coming in and who's coming out. You're going to have to compete every day, and he understands that. He doesn't shy away from that."

Today

• What: Arizona at ASU

• When: 7 p.m.

• TV: FSAZ

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 12 0 0 1.000
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 10 0 0 1.000
California 0 0 0 0.000 10 1 0 0.909
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 8 2 0 0.800
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 8 3 0 0.727
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 8 4 0 0.667
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 7 2 0 0.778
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 6 5 0 0.545
USC 0 0 0 0.000 6 4 0 0.600
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 6 3 0 0.667
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 6 3 0 0.667
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 4 6 0 0.400

AP Top 25


Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Delaware State at
Oregon
12/20 70-83
UCLA at
Kentucky
12/20 42-83
Lehigh at
Arizona State
12/20 84-81
Oklahoma at
Washington
12/20 67-69
USC at
Boston College
12/21 2:00 pm
DePaul at
Colorado
12/22 2:30 pm
Wisconsin at
California
12/22 7:00 pm
UC-Santa Barbara at
Oregon
12/22 7:00 pm
Tulane at
Washington
12/22 9:00 pm
Detroit at
Arizona State
12/23 1:00 pm
Stanford at
Texas
12/23 5:00 pm
South Dakota State at
Utah
12/23 7:00 pm
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