It was just a scrimmage. Just a coach evenly pitting half of his team against the other half with even the walk-ons contributing. Merely 24 minutes of intersquad Arizona basketball. Simply a glorified event, a promotional spectacle, meant to generate excitement and buzz surrounding the Wildcats’ upcoming season.
More than 14,500 people attended the event with fans lining up as early as 7am. Tickets sold out faster than any other Red-Blue event, ever. Myself and 18,562 other devices streamed the thing online while Washington didn’t fake any injuries en route to losing the decade. There were recruits and prospects and kids wide eyed to become a part of it. This:
Welcome to the McKale Center…No better place to play college basketball than in Tucson at UofA! #APlayersProgram pic.twitter.com/cJ3SVaUlbU
— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) October 13, 2013
Excitement galore as the 1994 Final Four team – with two former players now on the current coaching staff – was honored. Arizona’s video production team agaub did a phenomenal job cutting up the history of the school’s signature program and setting it to tunes that make you go goosebumps. Lute Olson was there and the current team was introduced to the enthusing sounds of John Williams’ 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sean Miller set cheering sections by name dropping every retired jersey in program history.
Hell yeah I watched a basketball practice.
Yet you can’t really take much away from two, twelve-minute halves of pageantry. I greatly appreciate Kaleb Tarczewksi’s 18 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s length and ability to slash. Brandon Ashley showed flashes of dominating moves en route to 14 points and 12 rebounds. A dynamic post he shall become. I finally got to see TJ McConnell play defense and I enjoyed it.
Conclusions aren’t going to be made today, 24-hours removed from our first glimpse of this vaunted squad.
But hear you me, Aaron Gordon is different than the other kids. If you follow this stuff then this is not the first place you’ve read that. On Saturday, he didn’t necessarily play fantastic – finishing with 12 and 13 and leading all participants with three assists – but he was in the thick of everything. He won the dunk contest by doing what no one else could:
At risk of being a hypocrite – having already said conclusions can’t be made from this game – Gordon confirmed he has the ability to change the course of a season. There’s a reason he’s been called “auto-correct.” As October-looking shots sloppily made their way up and around the rim, Gordon was there, more often than not, to secure the rebound or the basket. While it’s been widely noted the kid has a non-stop motor, he has a non-stop motor.
Am I excited about this season? You’re damn right I am and the Red-Blue production I streamed did nothing but confirm that excitement.
And at risk of being a further hypocrite, my primary takeaway despite Tarczewski’s 18 points is that Sean Miller is going to have a helluva time keeping Rondae Hollis-Jefferson off the floor. Basketball is played by just five players at a time and sometimes it might seem that the lengthy freshman, on paper, could be the odd man out (considering the leash allotted Tarczewski last year).
Now Note: I’m all for giving seven-footers the room they need to dominate. But sometimes, just sometimes, you have better options. That’s not to squeeze Kaleb out by any stretch of the imagination, but don’t be surprised if crunch time includes the southpaw from Philadelphia.
But I’ve digressed.
Because Saturday was more about the celebration of a forthcoming months of college basketball competition and the promise of the further excitement it promises. Competition ensues against colors neither blur nor red. There’s a left column to fill up.
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