Junior center expects big season for 'Cats

Updated: October 21, 2003, 8:53 PM ET

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Channing Frye has grown from a skinny high school kid with dubious potential to one of the best big men in college basketball -- and a crucial part of Arizona's plans this coming season.

"I think this will be a breakout year for Channing," teammate Salim Stoudamire said at the Wildcats' media day on Tuesday. "He's one of the primary guys we'll go to this year, and I think he'll take full advantage of that."

Frye, 6-foot-11 with a soft shooting touch, says he has put on about 10 pounds -- up to about 245 -- by working in the weight room through the summer.

"I feel like I'm so much better, on and off the court, skill-wise and maturity-wise," he said.

Consistent improvement has been the hallmark of the junior center.

"Every year has been a year where he's developed, and I think everything he does this year will be better than what he did last year," coach Lute Olson said. "We're going to try to do some things offensively that will get the ball in his hands more."

Frye, who has started 52 games in his two seasons with the Wildcats, is a career 58 percent shooter from the field. Last year, he shot 57 percent while averaging 12.6 points and 8.0 rebounds. He has blocked 110 shots in his career and was second in the Pac-10 as a sophomore with 60.

"He has a nice touch on his jump hook. He has a nice touch facing up," Olson said. "That's given us good flexibility in the past when we've faced big centers that don't like to defend outside. We feel confident we can step him out and make people play him."

With the departure of seniors Luke Walton, Jason Gardner and Rick Anderson, Frye inherits leadership responsibilities. There are just eight scholarship players on the Arizona roster, none a senior.

Frye, Stoudamire and Isaiah Fox are juniors. They and multitalented sophomore Andre Iguodala expect to share what Olson calls "leadership by committee" this season.

"I'm just out there trying to help my team win," Frye said. "If it takes me to step up and yell at people or get on people, then that's what I'm going to do. Sometimes Andre is the leader. Sometimes Salim is the leader. We just adapt to it."

The Wildcats are thin on the front line, where only the 6-9, 269-pound Fox is Frye's replacement. Otherwise, Olson will have to rely on the athleticism of the 6-6 Iguodala. The lack of depth means Frye can't consistently fall into foul trouble.

"He needs to eliminate the unnecessary fouls," Olson said. "Every once in a while he'll get one over the back on a rebound or get caught behind a guy and try to punch the ball away. He knows how valuable he is to us."

Frye played at St. Mary's High School in Phoenix, and while his prep career was terrific, many doubted he had the bulk, stamina and aggressiveness to succeed in the college game. Olson disagreed, and Frye has improved steadily.

He is flattered that he's now double-teamed, that he is a player opponents respect on an Arizona team that always expects to be a national title contender.

"I couldn't ask for a better team," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better program, a better city. I just like my life right now."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index