"Focused Lavender cherishing role, winning"
ANAHEIM, Calif. - It's Brendon Lavender's junior year at Arizona.
He isn't in the starting lineup, averaging just 11 minutes per game, a number where getting into a rhythm isn't necessarily on the agenda.
It's hard, but riding into the Elite Eight, Lavender's role is important. Foul trouble by starting shooting guard Kyle Fogg and forward Kevin Parrom's ankle injury have been two excuses to call his role extremely valuable thus far in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Not that it wasn't important before.
""Even though I'm not having 30 points as a team, look where I'm at; we're going to the Elite Eight,"" Lavender said. ""It's always been a dream of mine.""
Three years in, Lavender isn't feeling sorry for himself being that reserve, even when the players in front of him are healthy and productive. Three years in, he's cherishing every moment of the postseason run.
He scored eight points, including two back-to-back 3-pointers, against Texas to reach the Sweet 16. Against Duke Thursday, he made a steal and scored on a dunk to put Arizona up by 14 points late.
Lavender got philosophical Friday, saying he and his teammates are in an indescribable mindset, focused not on the going-arounds outside of themselves but solely on their roles.
If they focus and play those roles, they believe they're going to win.
""It's crazy state of mind that I'm in right now,"" Lavender said. ""It's just insane, it's getting easier, it's getting funner, the whole title, the Elite Eight. But I'm focused on my part to win, and I'm going to do that.""
It's a comfort thing. Comfort is the reason for he and his teammates loosening up on the court as they've progressed from the Memphis game, where they came out tight and uncertain.
""When we played Memphis,"" Lavender said, ""I feel like we had a lot of pressure on us. The next game we played against Texas, I felt like the pressure was going away. Then yesterday we came here, it was a weird feeling; it's a huge deal, but right now we're all so focused on the game, it's really not.
""It's getting easier and easier,"" he added ""It' weird.""
With none of Arizona's guards or wings leaving next season, Lavender's role isn't likely to change to a large degree. And with high-profile recruits in guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner coming in, the back court only becomes even more of a logjam.
""My role on this team ... it's been tough but at the same time it's still a blessing,"" Lavender said. ""I have a lot of advantages being a UofA college basketball player. Everyone shows the love. My family's happy for me. I'm getting a great education.
""I think at the end of this, when all is said and done, I can say I had a great experience,"" he added. ""I was successful.""