Tag Archives: Grant Jerrett

Grant Jerrett Left Arizona, Now Considered for Cash

The first things Rece Davis had to say about the 40th pick and the Portland  Trailblazers’ selection of Jerrett were surrounding his choice to declare and his lack of a neck. Bill Simmons remained distraught over his Celtics’ recent trade and dismissed the selection all together.

Grant Jerrett’s NBA career was off to a glowing start.

And then late – while I was researching Andre Roberson’s prospects as a member of the Thunder – I discovered the Arizona dropout was acquired by Roberson’s guaranteed team for “cash considerations.” Whether Jerrett feels he needed quick rationale to validate leaving Tucson is beyond me. I’d hope such validation comes in the form of on-court production. “Cash considerations,” however, won’t soon help his cause.

But maybe the Thunder – who even bothered to yield dollar bills for the kid – see something we don’t. After all, this is the franchise that has traded away the likes of James Harden and Jeff Green and remains a perennial power. They recognized Serge Ibaka at the back of the draft and took heat for selecting Russell Westbrook and Harden as high as they did (how’d that work out?).

So Jerrett joins – or at least has a fighting chance to – the Thunder. Jay Bilas spent much of the draft lead-up referencing wingspan and length and between their two new Pac-12ers, OKC has found such. Roberson measures in at 6’7″ with 6’11” wings while Jerrett touts 6’9″ and 7’2″. Effing condors.

[Insert something about hand size here]

Of course those are the facts on Grant. He’s tall, he’s long, he has advanced footwork and a nice touch. He can shoot a lick. Or at least he can do all of this in an empty gym. He’s perhaps unique to this draft in that he really hasn’t played a ton of basketball. And what “high level” basketball he has played, he’s produced just 5ppg and 3rpg. I compared that to the projected draft upon his declaration to find the average draft pick was putting up 16/6.

But this is why Sam Presti is paid for his job.

The Oklahoma City Thunder made their futures bet with whatever wealth of knowledge they held on Grant Jerrett and the confidence of previously successful evaluations. They also don’t have to give Jerrett a single thing. They’re only on the financial hook to the Trailblazers. Or at least they’re considering it.

It’s game time for Grant.

Paying the Chol Toll

Let’s get one thing straight: Angelo Chol is a model teammate. He works hard, understands his role, takes a team first approach, and plays his damndest.

This, from a January article about the power forward’s playing time:

Miller said he had Chol in his office last week to talk about his role and to reinforce the coaching staff’s belief in the athletic, but still raw, basketball talent.

“He said, ‘Coach, as long as we’re winning, you never have to talk to me,’” Miller said.

The kid just wants to win. What more could you want from a program player? Evidently, you could want more players, better players, at the same position.

Sean Miller has taken a presumably calculated approach/risk in loading his front court. He’s found himself with four and five stars splattered across the four and five position, yet now watches the second member of this wealth of bigs depart.

Choltastic is leaving right on the heels of Grant Jerrett’s league declaration.

This transfer makes more sense than Jerrett’s exit – Cholcredible played just 8.5 minutes per game and never saw the floor in 3 of the team’s final 6 games – and Arizona has brought in Aaron Gordon and Rodae Hollis-Jefferson; both of whom project to take minutes from the Choltender. Additionally, Miller has made a concerted effort to ensure that Kaleb Tarczewski receives the lion’s share of big man minutes (can’t fault him for hoping a monstrous 7-footer develops). And there’s still Brandon Ashley and the arriving Matt Korchek (6’10” 225lbs with similar high-motor-low-offense skills as Cholicious).

So yeah, even if winning was all that mattered to Cholholio, it was becoming abundantly clear that no matter how hard he worked or team first he approached the day, if the push was to improve his position with other bodies, he was going to be the odd man out.

And so now he is out and it raises questions not of Chol-Patrol’s character or dedication, but rather what Sean Miller is up to?

By no means am I insinuating that he’s sabotaging his own program – that’d be asinine – but it’s interesting to read the following:

50% of Sean Miller’s recruits from 2009-2011 have transferred

Momo Jones, Kyryl Natyazhko, Daniel Bejarano, Josiah Turner, Angelo Chol, and Sidiki Johnson are all gone to greener pastures or otherwise. It is yet to be determined whether this is an issue, but for now it is a fact. Another fact is that NCAA-wide, there’s about a 40% transfer rate. This doesn’t excuse the Arizona-exodus but sheds some light on the ubiquity of movement.

Again, whether this 50% attrition rate is an issue is yet to be determined. Arizona could win the 2013-14 National Title and this would all be for naught.

But having to pay this Chol Toll could be indicative of bigger issues, program problems, and a lack of direction, aim, and development. Have I taken it too far? Perhaps, but 1/2 your kids bolt and eyebrows are raised.

From where we sit today, however, there isn’t a problem. Arizona maintains a top-10 roster and sits in the homes and ears of innumerable elite recruits. The eyebrow may be raised, but Arizona fans can maintain a smug grin.

And maybe it’s even simpler than all of that. Maybe it’s all just a big bummer to lose Cholster because he is all of those things I’d previously mentioned. The type of kid you hope to stand and applaud as he holds his framed jersey overhead, his family at his side, on his Senior Day.

The type of kid that prompts Sean Miller to call him “one of the finest people and nicest kids that I have ever coached.”

Here’s to hoping the best for Angelo Chol.

And the program he’s leaving.

Lessons from Basketball Kid

I watched a video posted to the Facebook by a good friend of mine. The poster played some college basketball and shares a passion for the game as many of us do; which is to say the video came from a trusted hoops source.

Here it is:


Unbridled joy for a simple game. And this doesn’t need to be basketball specific. I’m sure we could find Baseball Kid, Soccer Kid, Tennis Kid, Hide-n-Seek Kid, Imaginary Friend Kid, or any of an assortment of other kids so damn fired up about something they’ll suggest taping a cheetah to grandma’s back. But Basketball Kid helped with perspective; that this is a game and it is one that we love.

I mean, Adam made a shot while playing defense!

And while that’s a remarkable feat in and of itself, I want for us to be reminded that Andre Roberson was once Basketball Kid, too. He just wanted to play. After all, how much do you have to love hoops to play defense and rebound? Today he’s taking heat for trying to play, once and for all, at the highest level.

Grant Jerrett, too. Taking heat for the dream.

And I’m simplifying this stuff. I’m breaking it down to the easiest level of comprehension because deep down I want to be so naive that I think every competition I watch is a celebration of sport.

It’s why I had to look away during The Fab Five as they showed each of Chris Webber’s two long walks down that longest of corridors. I don’t care how much money he did or did not take from Ed Martin, that was Basketball Kid. He cared and he was genuinely hurt.

Perhaps the decisions of Roberson and Jerrett are misguided. Maybe they’re not setting themselves up for success but that’s not the point as they seek to fulfill their professional aspirations. Because if they really do have enough Basketball Kid in them, they’re going to be just fine.

Yes, I choose to be naive in these moments of perceived greed or self-interest because we’re not privy to the inner-workings of such a decision. Because we’re not far enough removed from One Shining Moment and because it’s not November yet.

Sure, the stakes are a touch higher than enjoying the swing set by your house, but Adam’s closing words ring true, “I love basketball.”

Well Adam, Grant and Andre do as well.

And me too, buddy.

Grant Jerrett Enters the NBA Draft

Grant Jerrett has made himself available to the 2013 NBA Draft. He spent one season in Tucson and scored 5.2 points per game and grabbed 3.6 rebounds per game. It was announced via school release late Wednesday night. Read it here.

Now this decision has surprised many. The numbers, size, and preparedness don’t quite scream league so much as they plead improve. What’s more is that this decision coupled with its supporting documents (stats, tempo-free stats, scouting report, scouting report), suggest the young man is making a poor choice.

Per DraftExpress’ Mock 2013 Draft (which Jerrett is not listed on) the average projected lottery pick put up 15 ppg and 7 rpg. The average projected draft pick (both rounds, excluding internationals)? 16 and 6. That’s a far cry from 5 and 3.

The NBA Draft is a futures bet, a choosing of the player one thinks has the best opportunity to eventually succeed. By that logic, Jerrett arguably has as good a shot as anyone to prove a worthy pick. Jerrett may have produced 11 fewer points and 3 fewer boards per game than the average pick, but who’s to say he won’t be a formidable pro with a few years under his belt?

He did, of course, score just five more points per game than Yi Jianlian’s chair.

Look, I don’t know if Grant Jerrett is ready for the NBA and neither do you. It also, unfortunately, appears that whoever he’s trusting for advice doesn’t either.

I also don’t know the full tale behind how this came to be and I won’t venture to know. I choose to trust that such life decisions are made under the auspices of best interest. Maybe some NBA team middling in this draft is head-over-heels for the kid? I don’t know. There would also appear to be a higher power at work here and not the one his mother alludes to in her tweeted/texted announcement. God isn’t going to help Grant here.

But what I do know is that Jerrett is gone and that Arizona Adam is pissed about it. I selfishly wanted this kid in Cardinal and Navy for another year. A dynamic stretch four getting dished to by TJ McConnell with a bevvy of league-caliber athletes attacking the rim with an additional footer beneath it? Yes, please.

Grant, my man, you were going to have a great time in Dallas next spring.

But Rational Adam (puh-lease, like there is one) urges me to take a step back and take a second look. Here’s an 18-year-old who has someone in one ear telling him he can fulfill his NBA dreams. That he can be playing with or against the likes of players who’ve adorned his walls.

Grant, they’re no longer posters on your wall, they’re your contemporaries.

In the other ear?

Stay in college. Don’t make money. Don’t live a lavish life of 24/7 hoop and luxury. Go to class. Grant, you’re not good enough.

Because ultimately we hear what we want to hear, right? This could very well be as simple as hearing “you’re good” vs. “you’re not good.” A gross simplification of the two arguments. Now, I’m not naive to think this boils down to something that elementary, but when it comes to our dreams, we no doubt have our filters.

I still remember the MLBPA prospect card a Mets scout once asked me to complete. I’d have signed away my 82mph fastball on the spot.

Back to Grant, I don’t want the door to hit him on his way out. My hope is that it remains open, a genuine gesture of Coach Miller’s Player’s Program. And while his time in Tucson was brief, the hope is that it prepared him for his next endeavor. After all, that’s the ultimate goal of college, no?

Which brings me to the point that’s most frustrated me about this process. Without diving into the oft-visited NCAA criticism rabbit hole, players should get to attend NBA draft camps. It’s like an internship. It’s no different than a math major passing a summer crushing excel at an I-Bank only to discover she isn’t cut out for that crap.

Go. Learn and be amongst your contemporaries and get a professional evaluation from the people who are professionally evaluating you anyways. That is fair. That is just.

As it is today, kids, coaches, advisors and whoever the hell else is involved are left to guess work. As an outsider, I’m left to judge Grant Jerrett’s draft prospects on 5.2 and 3.6. Thirty-four games against the best competition he’s ever faced.

Give these kids a chance to succeed as opposed to the opportunity to fail.

I’ll maintain this isn’t the best decision for Grant Jerrett. And it also doesn’t seem to be completely his decision. Come to your own conclusions at this, but his agent to be, Brian Dyke, is the brother-in-law of his High School coach and the father of recent Arizona de-commit, Eric Cooper Jr. Dyke has represented just two NBA players.

None of it seems to stack up too neatly but I hope he succeeds. I always have.

I’m just bummed to see him do it in a different jersey.

Arizona and Oregon Still Dancing: Advance Factors

The last remaining Pac-12 squads in the NCAA tournament face steep challenges. For the Ducks, they’ve drawn the Dance’s number one overall seed and the toughest press this side of Gutenberg. In the West bracket, the Wildcats will face the Ohio State Buckeyes and their athletic set of wings and a scrappy point guard.

So how can these two squeak by? How can Oregon get to their first Elite Eight since 2007 (subsequently this is their first Sweet 16 since then, too)? What’s it going to take for Arizona to advance?

The advance factors:

The Obvious

  • Oregon – Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd are the team’s primary ball handlers. They man the ship for the nation’s 83rd most turnover prone team (21.5% TO%). That’s not good and as we mentioned, Louisville has a press which not coincidentally is at the root of the word “pressure.” They put heaps and loads of it on guards. And teams. The Cardinals are second in the country in defensive TO% (28%). You realize this means their opponent yields nearly 1/3 of their possessions to the Cardinals? That’s like having your team manager stand outside a restaurant bathroom and watch guard while you… well wait… it’s nothing like that. But the point is, Artis and Loyd are preparing for the toughest test of their season. This undersized tandem will have their hands and faces full of pressure. Dealing with it and taking care of the rock will go a long way in advancing the Ducks.
  • Arizona – As it’s been a season long dialogue, Mark Lyons is the obvious X-Factor for the Wildcats. I wrote about it for Point Guard U this week and now allow me to quote Chris Dufresne’s LA Times piece on the semi-PG:

    The truth is, Arizona will win this year’s NCAA title if senior guard Mark Lyons plays the way he played last weekend in Salt Lake City.

By that hyperbolic (though I love it) account, I think it’s fair to call Lyons an X-factor.   And just to recount, “last weekend in Salt Lake City” means 50points, 63% shooting, and just 4 turnovers.

The Subtles

  • Oregon – Maybe this one is obvious in that I’m about to make a total pun but subtly very important to the Ducks’ success will be their wings (see what we did there? so much giggling right now). And by wings I’m looking at Daymean Dotson and Carlos Emory. In his first big dance, Dotson has scored 40 points on 54% shooting and is 8-15 from deep. For a team that struggles to shoot the three, the emergence of a greater-than-50% shooter is nice, to put it subtly. And in his swan song, the senior Emory has gone ahead and become great energy off the bench and spent his upset minded first weekend dropping a combined 26 points and grabbing 13 boards. The Duck Wings (decidedly I’m hoping this catches on) combined for 66 points. Stay hot my friends.
  • Arizona – While we may have overwhelming memories of the cardinal and navy putting up gaudy offensive numbers, the core of the current team and current philosophy is tough defense. That tenant was lost for some portion of the season and then it reemerged in contagious fashion as Nick Johnson has reestablished himself as the defensive stopper Sean Miller lauded him to be. Thad Matta and others are taking note, too. It is yet to be determined what assignment Johnson will draw but the tone is set: Defense will win games for these Wildcats (unless you ask Dufresne, above). The Buckeyes pose no mega, collective threat offensively as the core of their success lies on the defensive end, too. Can Johnson be the more disruptive force?

Under the Radars

  • Oregon – These Ducks are pretty damn big. With a starting front court of Woods and Kazemi they’ve managed to be one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. And after those two they trot out the likes of Waverly Austin (6’11”) and Ben Carter (6’8″). It’s been this rebounding edge that I believe has allowed the Ducks to overcome their proclivity for turnovers. DYK the Ducks are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation (36% OR%)? DYK the Cardinals are one of the not so good defensive rebounding teams in the nation (yield a 33% OR%)? Now, I should note that the Cardinals manage to rebound the hell out of the offensive end (38.5%), a byproduct of their full court pressure. But this advantage could be negated by Oregon’s size and rebounding. The rebounding battle (looking at you Iranian Mound of Rebound) should prove central.
  • Arizona – The crop of freshmen have been lauded since forever. As the names said “yes” to Sean Miller last summer the fable grew. And then the season began and they were….freshmen. They’re the only top-10 recruits still playing which is a moderately fun fact but what they provide is something Ohio State just may not be able to handle: size. These kids are huge which the Buckeyes are not. Now size itself is not the answer (too many jokes to be made here) but just as Dotson/Emory have caught fire in the Dance, so too have these pups. Excluding Jerrett from Saturday’s win over Harvard in which he played just one minute after injuring his now completely healthy elbow, this triumvirate (and one game tandem) has put up a combined for 35 points, 36 boards; or 7/7.2 in just 21.4 minutes. They’ve been the difference makers on the glass and in the lane and will need to continue to do so against the undersized and less-than-stellar rebounding Bucks.

Survive.

And advance.

The Dancing Arizona Wildcats (by unbiased, biased BH)

I couldn’t quite give this one an un-biased spin so I asked my buddy Brad to craft this here tourney preview. Full disclosure, he’s 110% Wildcat.

Not too long ago, Arizona was projected as the top seed in the West region. Arizona stumbled to the finish line and enters the tournament as a 6 seed, having split their last 10 games. However, this is still a team that started 14-0 and knocked off Florida–the best team in the country. Arizona has also played some of its best basketball over the last 4 games and seems to have patched up its shoddy three point defense. The question for Arizona, and its fans, is which team will show up: the team that started 14-0 and played inspired defense over the last two weeks; or the team that found a way to lose to USC? The experts are counting on the latter, as Belmont is the chicest upset bid in the entire draw (9 of 12 CBS Experts pick Belmont, as did The President). Only one way to find out: let’s dance!

Why I like them: Sean Miller. Sean Miller coached teams do well in tournaments: he has coached in the NCAA Tournament 5 times and been to the second weekend 3 times. More importantly Arizona is loaded with talent. The team sports a group of freshman that comprised a top 5 recruiting class and is collectively playing their best basketball of the season right now. Additionally, Arizona starts three seniors who all have aspirations of playing professional basketball. The most encouraging reason to like the Wildcats is that in the past three games, they’ve held opponents to 12-39 (30 percent) from behind the arc–six points lower than their season average 36 percent. Bottom line: Arizona has the talent, the coach, the experience and the pedigree to beat any team on any given night.

Why I don’t like them: They allowed teams to shoot threes at a 36 percent clip this year; that’s good for 276 best in the country. (Belmont has two senior guards that shoot over 40 percent from three, and one–Ian Clark–is the best 3 point shooter in the nation). After starting 14-0, Arizona only managed to beat one team (Colorado) in the top half of the Pac-12 conference the rest of the way. To make matters worse, reliable Senior’s Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons shot the three at a less than 30 percent clip the last ten games of the season; while playmaker Nick Johnson disappeared for the month of February and most of March. Bottom line: Arizona has played inconsistently and shown an ability at times to lose to any team on any given night.

Poetic Justice: Kevin Parrom endured a tragic and well documented year that saw him lose his grandmother and mother to cancer and then endure recovering from a gun shot wound. He chose not to redshirt just so he could keep his mind on basketball and now he leads his team on a special tournament run. Mark Lyons came here for one season: to win. And so he does and Sean Miller’s first recruiting class leaves their mark on the program.

Best possible scenario: Arizona’s defense shows up and their size and athleticism overwhelms Belmont. In a second round tossup Mark Lyons is lights out from behind the arc, and Arizona prevails in a close game against a talented New Mexico squad. In the Sweet 16 Arizona gets some help from Iowa State who shoots lights out from three in the first two rounds, knocks off Ohio State, and then goes cold against the Wildcats. Finally, Arizona’s length gives Kelly Olynyk fits in the Elite 8, and Grant Jerrett plays the game of his life, as the Wildcats head to the Final Four. Sean Miller’s first. Ultimately, the Wildcats run out of steam in the national semi-finals but, man, what a run.

BB: The Urgency Issue Addressing Itself

I’m excited.

And it’s not a new feeling. Since Sean Miller arrived in Tucson, expectations were tempered and then quickly elevated as he made an improbable run into the 2011 Elite Eight and that was awesome. I went to Anaheim to see Jamelle Horne’s three rim out. I walked out of that place with hope and excitement – amidst some hollow gut – for the future of this program.

Of course last year let some of the air out; but then the recruiting class and Lyons and the promise of veterans Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom, and we were back.

We all know this story and the subsequent 29 games that have transpired since. Expectations and hype are gone. Reality arrived.

Of late, the air has once again been let out.

But here’s the thing. I see an Arizona team that has struggled with urgency. A group that’s allowed itself to play from behind too often and now that’s burning them. Their early success in such situations, through the lead of calm veterans, perhaps earning them a level of comfort that grew too comfortably. Urgency has been the issue.

No more.

Saturday marks the beginning of the new season. The final act in what should prove to be a three part act: 14-0, 9-6, ?. This third act will not be lacking in urgency because there is nothing but urgency left.

On Saturday we will celebrate the careers of the first, four-year Wildcats of the Sean Miller era. They’ve endured the bumps and bruises of a budding program and will be just the second and third four-year seniors to participate only twice in the NCAA tournament (Kyle Fogg was the first). The theatrics of Senior Day should serve as a glaring reminder that this whole thing is finite. It doesn’t go on forever, you don’t get to connect over Patric Young or dismiss Chase Tapley or freeze up in LA and Colorado forever.

Urgency is the issue that has been addressed but not handled and now it’s going to be forced.

Solomon: You lose and it’s over.

Kevin: You lose and it’s over.

Mark: You lose and it’s over.

I know it means something to the fans, the legacy a player leaves behind, and this is the month when legacies are cemented. That Horne jumper I mentioned before? Had that thing fallen, it’s a whole different memory for the four-year contributor who always seemed to leave a lot to be desired.

And I imagine it means a lot to them. After all, they came to Arizona to compete for things they might not have otherwise competed for at another school. They wanted to finish with the best 18-game record. They want to run through a tournament in Staples (now the MGM). They want to hear their school’s name called on a Sunday. They want to win their last six games.

At this juncture, the legacy is beginning to spiral; taking a turn towards “what happened” and off of the road to “special.” Because something special is what we knew Arizona had – what that team knows they have – when this season started. A dyanmic front court with size and length and skill. A gutsy and tried play maker delivering arrogance to a group perhaps lacking just that. A spring loaded off guard capable of defensive havoc and highlight reel finishes. A veteran pair of point-forwards who have laid the red carpet for those to come.

But special can’t happen until the urgency of these finite moments is realized, embraced, and attacked. The Wildcats have been dropped into the deep end. Will the sink? Or will they swim?

Yeah. I’m excited.

Baby Bigs and Why Patience Matters. Josh Scott, too.

I debuted this morning on SB Nation’s Wildcats site, AZ Desert Swarm. It’s a good, comprehensive site covering all facets of Arizona athletics. Get into it.

So what I dove into over there this morning was the Arizona freshmen bigs and this absurd but relatively muted notion that they’ve disappointed (I really should curb my message board reading). They have not been a disappointment and I spell that out with comparisons to Arizona bigs of the past – all of whom were drafted except Ivan Radenovic – and the collection of Top-50 bigs of the past three classes and their freshman year output. Kaleb, Grant, and Brandon are about par for the course.

Those kiddos will be improving and one has to appreciate the sound of that considering they stand at 17-2 with room to indeed play better.

But what about other baby bigs across the conference? Arizona didn’t have a complete monopoly on sized incomers, how are those guys fairing? We have seen a smattering of matured big men coming into their own this season (Tony Woods, Jordan Bachynski, Eric Moreland, Dwight Powell), further supports the notion that everyone grows up. A quick peak at the pups:

Big PPG RPG
Tony Parker, UCLA 2.7 1.4
Ben Carter, Oregon 3.1 2.8
Grant Verhoeven, Stanford 0.9 0.9
Jeremy Olsen, Utah 2.3 2.6
Josh Scott, Colorado 12.6 5.6

Toldya! Freshmen bigs have a steeper learning curve (apologies if I’ve missed any others). While few of these guys came in as ballyhooed as the Zonies, they too will need time to develop. Yeah, it takes the brain a minute to fire off synapses seven feet apart and suddenly when you enter the college game you’re not playing against City High’s 6’5″ pimple faced junior who just texted his mom that he got a B+ on his chemistry exam (so getting grounded). Now these guys are banging against like-sized humans and that’s a different ball game. There is so little post development at the sub-collegiate level because there just isn’t the competition to support it. I mean, Anthony Davis developed his skills as a guard and then puberty reared it’s ugly head and said, “Young man, let’s do this.”

But let’s talk about Mr. Scott.

By many accounts, he was one of the most skilled big men in the 2012 class. Scouts raved of his scoring ability and ambidexterity. In learning about the 6’10” Coloradoan, we find that his profile has few parallels to other bigs in his class. Their profiles read something like a model’s, talking about bodies and frames or how athletic they are. Something straight out of that scene in Moneyball where Billy Beane abruptly dismisses the celebration of “high butts…like we’re looking for Fabio.” Well no one is soon to call Mr. Scott “Fabio” but he is an example of a skilled tall person in the right system who is taking advantage of the opportunity.

He’s not about to wow you with athleticism but he will get by you with deft skill and put the ball into the basket be it by post move or free throw. He’s crafty and it’s been an impressive twenty games thus far. He’s an exception to the rule.

Conference and nation-wide, freshmen bigs will improve and that’s exciting news. It’s anecdotally supported that the older these guys get, the better they are. Tony Woods doubles his scoring output? Oregon is 18-2. Jordan Bachynski jumps from 6/4 with just one block per contest to 11/7 and 5 blocks? ASU is a bubble team. And sure there are other factors playing into Oregon and ASU’s success but these bigs have been integral to that success. Look, I know it’s not rocket science but teams are better suited with a formidable front court than back court. There’s a reason you have a 17% chance of making the league if you’re seven-feet tall.

But in the meantime, some teams will continue to endure the learning curve. A message that may resemble Sean Miller’s comments for his freshman, Aneglo Chol, last year:

Please catch the ball when it is passed to you, Angelo.

The Mighty Fall While the Mighty of Size Struggle

Well we certainly never thought Nick Johnson was an elite ball handler and so when he entered a brace of Ducks (yes, that’s officially what you call a group of ducks) with a chance to win or tie a game late for the fourth time this season, he couldn’t.

And that’s OK. It’s by no means the crowning moment of defeat. The Wildcats did little beyond show up to try to win that game. While saying such has a tinge of sour grapes, it’s hard to say the fourth ranked team in the country did their thing and got beat at it when good chunks of the game were spent gazing at a 2-3 zone. But credit where it’s due. The Ducks were the one’s playing that zone and playing it actively; allowing it to be anchored by the Woods and Austin, the two of whom possess length to rival Interstate-10. Impressive to say the least.

And for all my senior bravado speak let’s discuss EJ Singler. Conference play has begun and the senior is going for 15/8/4 across two games. For sweet cliche’s sake, he’s stepped up, risen to the challenge, and he’s come to play. I respect that.

But perhaps the most interesting part about that game was that Oregon showed no fear of the Wildcats. Arizona came out with a haymaker, an 11-0 run with equal parts defensive and laser efficient shooting and all appeared well for the Red Team. A Dana Altman timeout sought to cool the run only to have Waverly Austin turn the ball over leading to a Lyons layup. And then the Ducks rattled off 41-19 punishment which won them the game. Quarter by quarter, if you will, the game scores were 22-20, 8-21, 20-19, and 16-10. Arizona beat the Ducks in each of those except in that critical second quarter during which Oregon was flat out the better team.

I made a note that Arizona allows just 23% of the field goals they yield to be at the rim. While I don’t have the exact stats regarding shots at the rim for the Ducks Thursday night, I do know that their three contributing bigs (Waverly, Woods, Kazemi) combined for 22 points and 14 rebounds. Arizona’s three biggens? 7/11. Generally not a recipe for victory.

Last week Miller made no bones about the fact that Ashley, Tarczewski, and Jerrett need to improve. For Arizona to compete for the things they want to compete for, they must.

And there was a moment last night that I thought sort of captured the way of these freshmen. Mark Lyons made a good move to get into the belly of the zone and was driving across the lane. He’d previously been blocked seemingly countless times and had come to learn his lesson. He drew and handful of defenders and the zone bust appeared to be coming into full effect. There was the for Jerrett to have the ball delivered to him on a platter for a two handed flush or at least to draw a foul or do something really tight that no body even knows of. Whatever he was to do, he was not supposed to drift to the three point line.

The ball wound up amongst the beautiful Oregon cheerleaders and not in Grant’s hands. On the television we could see Lyons’ frustration as he explained to the 6’11” jump shooter that he needs to be a 6’11” force. Because he can. And will.

This is a part of the learning curve. It’s no secret Arizona’s recipe involves savvy vets playing well and some talented pups to just play. When the latter half of that equation makes its leap – not even a leap to great but to anything-better-than-7-points-and-11-boards – this will be a frightening team. Hell, they’re 14-1 with question marks abound.

And while that first loss tastes bitter, the best palate cleanse is to learn.

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in the McKale Center

The glass has to be half full. It must with nary a game yet played. For such, over the next few days, I’ll be posting why each of the conference’s twelve teams have reasons to be optimistic.

  1. Big People – One season ago, the Arizona frontcourt was manned by a 6’7” and 6’6” tandem. Today the Wildcats’ lane will be occupied by nearly fourteen feet of human. A difference maker indeed and Sean Miller had this to say about it:
  2. Grad School – It’s not unprecedented but Mark Lyons’ transfer to Tucson from Xavier to begin graduate work and play basketball could wind up being cited as one of the most impactful transfers, ever. Hyperbole to be sure and the horse is well ahead of the carriage; but this smells a lot like Russell Wilson to Wisconsin for a Rose Bowl, the basketball version.
  3. Time – Kevin Parrom had a hellacious 2011-12 that he’s asked to not be asked about. We all know the story by now so now let’s celebrate that we’ll get to see a tough, fun, and now healthy basketball player thrive as a senior.
  4. Padded Chairs – Nearly everyone sitting on one was a four-star recruit or better and is going to make these Wildcats the deepest team in the conference if not the country.
  5. 1988 – This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Arizona’s first Final Four and one of the greatest teams in school history. That ’88 squad went on to win a gaggle of NBA Championships and included Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Kenny Lofton, Jud Bucheler, Tom Tolbert, and others.
  6. Zeus – Not the Greek God but if Kaleb Tarczewski erupts in season one, he may be considered one in Tucson. Seven-footers are good old fashioned difference makers. A monster season will have Zeus in the lottery and the ‘Cats playing deep into the Madness.
  7. Maturity – There may be young pieces, but this is a mature group lead by senior statesman, Solomon Hill. At Pac-12 Media Day Hill let everyone know how he’s embraced his role as leader, teaching the mature-beyond-their-years underclassmen of sacrifice and passing on the parties that are always going to be there. A subtle jab at the departed Josiah Turner? Whatever it is, the Wildcats are focused on winning.