Tag Archives: Josiah Turner

BB: For Arizona, This is The Game

When Florida enters the McKale Center Saturday, they’ll be the first ranked opponent on Lute and Bobbi Olson court since the 2010-11 #21 BYU Cougars, uhhh, beat Arizona. I was at that game and vomited four times. Literally.

Alright so I had food poisoning and that shall not be the premise of my Florida-Arizona commentary. No, I’d like to revisit the upset surrounding scheduling. How the departed Jim Livengood, knowing full well the program was in moderate shambles could arrange for such a home-and-home to happen. To allow a mid-major to embarrass the Wildcats in McKale – then a year later on the road.

I’m not pointing a finger at Livengood. He wasn’t dribbling or shooting or letting Jimmer to the rack at will. No, it was a strategic lapse, on to the next. And what’s next has been the Sean Miller show with guest appearances from Derrick Williams, Josiah Turner, Kyryl Natyazkho and Lamont Jones. With special contributions from Tim Floyd.

But this Saturday marks the end of guests and special contributors. This is year four and Miller hand picked this team. He’s built them and developed them and, if we’re to believe he’s as good a coach as we want to, he knew what he was doing. And that’s why he has Florida coming to town. That’s why next year marks the beginning of a home and home with Michigan followed by a home and home with Missouri with rumors of Gonzaga sprinkled in and visits to NYC (preseason NIT) and Maui. It’s the model Lute followed and if you’ll recall his twenty-five seasons in Tucson, it worked pretty well, right?

So what of these Gators? The first top-10 showdown in McKale in eight years? With respect to the aforementioned build up to this crowning season of the Sean Miller era, this is the marquee game. This is the coming out party. This is the how you like me now moment. For all of the cupcakes and walkover games previously scheduled and played, the ones built to set these developing Wildcats up for success, this is the one built to lead them to success. The kind that puts tiny numbers next to your name and the kind that puts you in the national conversation. The kind that makes programs not seasons and the kind that puts rings on your finger and banners in your rafters.

For all the talk of SOS, RPI, etc. this is Miller’s first flash of SOP – Strength of Program. And that’s not to say this is a must win. Arizona could very well lose this game and carry on to have tremendous success; win a billion games and twelve titles. But for the first time, by program design, Arizona will work to assert itself nationally, not just the best amongst a meddling Pac-12.

Now when discussing this stance I’ve put forth, my buddy Jamie (who once unofficially procured a triple-double in HS) was quick to cite my hyperbole. And he’s got a point. This is a scheduled contest, part of a contract signed maybe two years ago. How could anyone have known Florida would be a sultry 7-0 in 2012? I see his point. Big schools schedule big schools. This is just another in a series of games that will be added to the schedule.

But just ask Tom Crean about the three years of beatings he took from Kentucky before finally dropping them last year. Think that meant something to him? Think that meant something to Hoosier faithful? How about this year’s team? WE ARE INDIANA HEAR US ROAR! 

Maybe I get a little carried away in the magnitude of this game, swept up in the romanticism of perhaps getting to witness a catapulting victory. But you can’t tell me there isn’t something bigger than Gators at Wildcats here because it’s been a spell since Tucson could taste it. There was that moment in Anaheim but it never quite felt real, lasting. Don’t get me wrong, taking Duke to task was remarkable but deep down there it was all too unexpected. Special to be sure, but this is the time. This is why players come to Arizona. It’s why Sean said yes and it’s why there will 15,000 people inside that arena just off Campbell Ave.

So yeah, Jamie, I’m swept up in it. But I just think we’re supposed to be.

Mark Lyons is Not Struggling. Niet.

Over the weekend the Arizona Wildcats took Texas Tech behind the woodshed and beat them. It’s the same treatment, to date, they’ve been giving to the nation’s 294th toughest schedule.

Yes, these ‘Cats have played no one. Their “toughest” game to date was arguably that Red Raiders squad and they were 4-0 against the worst schedule in the country. In and of itself, Arizona’s woeful schedule is a conversation. But these opponents were pieced together by design, a component of the rebuilding Sean Miller had to do when he inherited a near disaster of a program. In the coming years, there will be marquee games littering the November and December slate before embarking upon an increasingly competitive Pac-12 season.

Whilst on this cake walk, the Arizona dialogue has not been able to evolve much beyond speculation and hype. The freshmen are good, Nick Johnson has improved, Solomon Hill is doing his thing. Pretty much nothing new.

And so now I’m starting to see people harping on Mark Lyons’ struggles. This is trolling. This is hunting for a conversation. It’s straight Limbaugh, Cowherd, Bayless – creating controversy out of thin air. I read about it in the Arizona Daily Wildcat and the Arizona Daily Star. To this I say NIET! No struggling. Struggling to me would mean bad things are happening and I don’t see much negative in the cardinal and navy jersey number two. Now to be fair, each of these pieces have elements of praise for Lyons’ performance but I question what the barometer is. If Josiah Turner set the Arizona PG bar, Lyons is a legend. If Damon Stoudamire set it, well, Lyons has some work to do. Alas, to say the senior has struggled is far from realistic.

Has he turned the ball over? Absolutely. His turnover rate is hovering just below 30% and that’s not good and I’m not going to dwell there.

Because did you know Mark Lyons has the 69th highest effective field goal percentage in the nation? The number itself is 63.8%. Remember Derrick Williams and how we lauded his efficiency? Williams’ eFG% was 65%. How’s that for efficient company? And so while Lyons has been inefficient taking care of the ball, when he does hang on to it, he’s doing good things. Efficiency is a mark of how well you repeatedly do something. I’ll argue Mark Lyons is an efficient winner.

It’s been no secret that he can score and is it really a requirement that a point guard lead the nation in assists? I don’t think so. I think he’s supposed to facilitate the offense. Arizona is the eighth best offensive team in the country (as determined by KenPom’s AdjO). To that point, Arizona on the whole is bigger than its parts. As a team, the Wildcats assist on 65% of their made field goals. If passing is what you want, you’re getting it. Maybe not from Lyons as much you’d like but then it simply becomes a semantics conversation. True point guard, two guard, slasher, combo guard; call him whatever you want. I’m going to call him good.

These are some gaudy numbers I’ve thrown out here in an argument that is really in its infancy. Arizona could open a trendy, chic pastry shop called Walk with all the cupcakes they’ve got. The sample set is minimal and can really only be used to begin letting us examine trends. To that, I’ll say its fair to notice Lyons’ turnovers.

But to say he’s struggling is an overstatement and undeserving.

What to Make of Josiah Turner’s Suspension

It wouldn’t be a 2011-12 Pac-12 basketball event if there wasn’t a significant suspension right?

After all, this is the year of USC’s injuries and Sports Illustrated and Kevin Parrom’s tragedy and player suspensions and player dismissals. So when Josiah Turner was suspended – his third “DNP Coach’s Decision” this year – it came as now surprise.

But now what to make of it? FIND THE HUMAN FLAWS!!!

Let’s point a finger at Turner and demand him out of the program. I mean, three suspensions is treading on Nelson territory and is utterly unacceptable. Now let’s look at Sean Miller’s program. The third year coach has missed, in some capacity, on 42% of his recruits (from flops to departures) and that doesn’t include the impending careers of Turner (departure candidate) and Jordin Mayes (flop candidate) who was given a scholarship over Tucson local and ACC scoring champ, Terrel Stoglin.

Dare we? Get outta here!

Turner broke rules so he got suspended. And not for a half at that. The season has come to an exhausting peak and appears to have culminated in some bad decisions. Miller said it himself that Turner “is not a bad kid.” He’s making some form of bad decisions and he’s paying the price. Such is life.

And as for Miller, I’m on board. I couldn’t be happier he’s in Tucson and I don’t think people realize just how bottomed out Arizona was when he took over. The class that fell into his lap was glorious but created of veil over reality that this was a program short three recruiting classes. Now, Miller’s third true recruiting class, is heralded as other worldly.

The Wildcats are right about where they should be in year three and Josiah Turner is right about where he should be after doing what he’s done.

Will he get any better? Maybe.

The end goal is that you hope he learns from this in whatever manner he’s meant to learn, right? Sports teaches us lessons and coaches are entrusted to convey those messages. Winning is a byproduct of those lessons and the big question becomes: what gets compromised?

If it’s rules, looks like Miller wont. If it’s attitudes, looks like Miller’s missed on a few prospects.

Time will tell but I think everything will wind up – OK.

BB: Josiah Turner and the Cycles of the Moon

Josiah Turner committed a foul that appeared to cost Arizona a critical home game.

You’re familiar with the buildup – whiteout, ESPN, GameDay, first place on the line. A furious and late rally, capped by Solomon Hill’s 26th, 27th, and 28th points tied the game with nine seconds remaining. McKale was erupting. The Huskies were stunned. Game on.

We often refer to the end of a game, particularly a close one, as the waning moments of a contest. If you’ll recall elementary school astronomy, waning refers to the dwindling appearance of the moon; waxing the opposite. It’s an obvious metaphor, analogizing the shrinking moon to the shrinking clock.

The reality, however, is that these moments are everything but waning. Nothing is shrinking but the numbers on the clock. Beyond that, every play is enlarged, each bucket more important than the last. These are not waning moments, they’re waxing. They unfold in seemingly incomprehensible immediacy, waiting just long enough to discover the hero of this magnified flash. Or the scapegoat.

Therefore, following Hill’s game-tying three and as the Huskies inbounded the ball, it was clear that a play of game changing magnitude was forthcoming. Perhaps it would be a Washington drive and dish or another step-back jumper. Perhaps it would be a stop by the Arizona defense and a chance to win the game that looked all but over minutes prior. I was watching, you were watching, and we both knew something was going to happen at this most critical of junctures.

A foul.

Not the foul, just a foul. It was Turner’s attempt to make the big play, draw the charge on the rumbling CJ Wilcox to force a Washington turnover and subsequent Arizona game-winning possession.

In his effort, Josiah Turner failed. He sent Wilcox to the line for the game sealing free throws, the once deafening McKale crowd silenced. The moment could have swallowed Turner. It would have been understandable for him to wane, perhaps befitting of the mercurial freshman just one game removed from his temper-less ejection. Turner quite easily could have disappeared into the gravity of the instant.

He didn’t.

In five dribbles he took the ball the length of the court, made a move few others are gifted enough to even imagine, and got to the rim. The layup to tie the score for the seventh time that evening was vengefully blocked by Tony Wroten. Josiah Turner had failed for the second time in less than six-seconds of game play.

He didn’t.

In the waxing moments of that game Josiah Turner showed us all why every team in the nation wanted him to wear their jersey. He showed poise beyond his years and beyond his maturity level. The big point guard from Sacramento makes plays. He proved as much on Saturday and now, leading into a no less daunting weekend in the Bay Area, he’ll be asked to so once again. The ball in his hands, a part of the season on his shoulders, he’ll be asked to succeed.

He will.

This post can also be seen at pointguardu.com: your source for Arizona basketball and recruiting news.

While They Were Sleeping: Coming out parties

Arizona 83, New Mexico St 76: Arizona got off to yet another slow start despite some highly anticipated lineup changes. Kyryl Natyazkho was delegated to the bench in favor of Nick Johnson and a smaller starting group. But NMSU jumped to a 10-2 lead forcing a Miller timeout and no doubt a significant tongue lashing. Then it was time for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to show just how great they’re going to be. With the Wildcats down 56-58 with 10 minutes to play, Turner and Johnson scored or assisted Arizona’s next 16 points as the growing Wildcats pulled away. It was undoubtedly Turner’s best game as a Wildcat, going for 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. He did have 4 turnovers and fouled out, but it appears Turner is getting the hang of things. Johnson, however, stole the show with his sky high dunks and knack for hitting big shots. He scored 19 points in the Wildcat victory. There remain questions surrounding Arizona’s interior strength and inability to stop dribble penetration, but in this young season, wins are wins. Also, Solomon Hill continues to play terrific (12-6-7, one turnover).

Oregon 64, UTEP 59: The big news here is that Dana Altman’s squad has lost its second freshman in as many weeks. Two weeks ago Jabari Bird left the program inexplicably. Then, last night, it was announced that Bruce Barron would leave the team as well. After the game, Altman made no bones about the fact that they were off the team, “I want guys who want to be here (and) I think everybody else is pretty solid.” With the proverbial door closed, the once fad pick for a big year find themselves slightly depleted and hurt. That said, these departures open doors for other players to excel and Jonathan Loyd did just that. The sophomore scored a career high 24 points and had this to say about it, “I love basketball, and getting more minutes means more fun. I just took the opportunity that I saw and it just happened to be me scoring.” He’ll need to continue to do so for the Ducks to remain competitive this season. The departures are also perplexing as Altman appears to get a lot of players minutes. Nine Ducks recorded 11 or more minutes Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see how this team – and program – moves forward.

At first sight five: Arizona Wildcats

I got my first chance to see the Arizona Wildcats on Monday night. Their preseason woes had my interest piqued and, frankly, I wasn’t going to miss an Arizona game for the world. But favorites aside, losing to Seattle Pacific and squeaking by Humboldt State is not an auspicious start for a possible Pac-12 favorite or the nation’s #16 team.

So last night, with the dress rehearsals finally over, Wildcat nation and I watched with bated breath. Perhaps that’s hyperbole – bated breath feels like a March idiom – but make no bones about it, the many questions surrounding this team were quickly becoming concerns.

And the first half did little to address those concerns. The Wildcats were once again out-rebounded, turned the ball over too much, and had atrocious shot selection. Eventually they would settle in, tighten up their defense, and win the ball game. Coach Miller can be happy about some things. Not so much about others.

Here are five things I learned the first time I saw the 2011-12 Arizona Wildcats:

  1. The interior will be an issue – Any team would miss Derrick Williams but particularly this squad. I loved what I saw out of freshman Angelo Chol who appears to be a raw basketball player but is active and will make opponents work. Junior Kyryl Natyazkho has not developed as hoped and one has to believe his starting job could be in jeopardy. He still appears lost on the court at times which greatly hurts the Wildcats particularly as the starting center. And here’s a fact: this team is going to struggle defensively in the post. Senior Jesse Perry cannot carry the defensive load inside. Watching this game I couldn’t help but cringe at the thought of a Smith/Nelson/Wear tornado tossing the Wildcat bigs around. Someone is going to need to get better and quickly for this team to be able to get front court stops.
  2. The PG position is going to be OK – Whether its Turner or Mayes, both players will be wearing an Arizona jersey so the Wildcats stand to be just fine. Sure, at first glance Turner appeared shaky but I’m willing to give a freshman in November the benefit of the doubt when he’s had the type of program building pressure Turner’s had. Mayes, on the other hand, showed a steady hand and an ability to hit open shots, precisely what he (and any good point guard) will be asked to do. Mayes is still regaining his basketball legs following off season foot surgery and – like the rest of the team – will get better as the season unfolds. Also need to get this in there: Turner looks like he might erupt once he finds a comfort zone in this system.
  3. Going as the elders go – Arizona will no doubt depend on the progress of its talented freshman. But if seniors Jesse Perry and Kyle Fogg don’t play like seniors – that is to say consistently and confidently – this team will struggle to develop. Fogg will be looked to for leadership as he’s a four year starter and needs to improve on his slumped junior season (37% FGs). Perry will be asked to anchor an under-talented front court that (as previously stated) will need to fight for everything it gets. In the Wildcats’ first game, Perry managed to carry the ‘Cats through the first half (12 and 5) and Fogg came on in the second as the Wildcats pulled away. The two led the team in scoring, combining for 30 points between them. If these two can produce, expect the freshmen to have a much shorter learning curve.
  4. But they will be important – While Fogg and Perry will have a lot to do with this team staying afloat, the newcomers will control the team’s next-level success. Turner didn’t play well in game one but it is obvious to any observer that he has the talent to make this team go. Simply put: he’s bigger and stronger than the other kids. Nick Johnson is pure energy off the bench and is going to be a pest. An absolute pest. He’ll score and get stops and give the Wildcats some much needed scoring depth. Chol, like I said, will be a defensive asset who is going to learn a lot on the fly. Sidiki Johnson, well, no one quite knows yet especially considering Miller’s post-game comments.
  5. Parrom is missed – Kevin Parrom is expected back relatively soon but until then, this team will miss him. He’s arguably the best player on the team and Arizona needs his versatility. Because of their lack of front court depth, the ‘Cats will be forced to play a lot of small ball – three and maybe four guard sets. Parrom can and has played the two, three, and four for Sean Miller which will go a long way in helping the Wildcats defend when forced into a guard heavy lineup. The good news is that Parrom’s versatility won’t greatly disrupt Arizona’s flow upon his return. For now, the Wildcats will benefit some from having to play others in Parrom’s absence, but number 3 will make this team go.

BB: It’ll take some time to find it

In an impassioned post-game speech last March, Arizona Coach Sean Miller exalted to his team, “Nastiness is required.”

You’re all familiar with it. Over the following months it became the program’s unofficial motto; tossed across message boards and columns and the McKale pregame intro video. It was a big moment for a building program and, simply, it’s true.

Nastiness is indeed required to be a great player, a great team, and a great program. Do you think Williams felt bad putting Darnell Gant’s shot into the student section? How was Isaiah Thomas feeling about taking and hitting the game winner in Momo Jones’ eye for the Pac-10 title? Do you think Miller had any qualms swooping Kaleb Tarczewski from Bill Self’s front porch? No. And each was nasty.

So, after two lackluster exhibition games against inferior opponents, I ask: where is the nasty?

Has it been swept away amongst the hype? Is it buried in self-induced pressure? Does it simply not exist?

Yes, there’s been a lot of hype. Yes, individuals have built a lot of pressure to perform (Fogg, Hill, Perry). No, it exists and it’s there.

As Miller tinkers and adjusts, challenges and teaches, we’ll slowly begin to see this group of Wildcats play Sean-ball. The proof is in the pudding. After being outrebounded – and beat – by an undersized, less talented Seattle Pacific team, Miller’s squad promptly responded by more than doubling Humboldt State’s rebound total and grabbing 29 more boards than against SPU.

Each season brings a learning curve and this one is no different.

As the season develops, so too will Josiah Turner’s control of the offense and the bigs’ control of the lane. Kyle Fogg should convert his now famous 40,000 jumpers into some semblance of confidence and a rotation will emerge. Miller calls his current rotation a “jigsaw puzzle,” working to put the right pieces in the right places to make a beautiful picture. Right now, the 2011-12 Arizona Wildcats puzzle is barely out of the box, not yet scattered across the table.

A group looking for its identity, feeling each other out and learning to play against bigger, stronger, faster opponents than 140 pound high schoolers, will take a little time to get nasty. Because nastiness certainly is not 20 turnovers (14 from upperclassmen) or being outrebounded by a D2 school. It’s responding to those setbacks, improving when you can, and making your teammates better.

So now we begin; a thirty-one game journey stating tonight that will have bumps and setbacks, highs and lows, wins and losses. It’s an uncertain path but one thing is for certain:

Nastiness is required.



Previewing the point guards: Pac-12 South

As I mentioned yesterday, point guard is an important position. Heading into the 2011-12 season there’s only one lead guard in the Pac-12 with a proven track record of success – Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez. Taking a deeper look at the league’s point guards, we learn that they’re either experienced and light on talent, or young with a heavy burden of proof.

The floor generals of the Pac-12 south:

Arizona: Outbound is Momo Jones by way of surprising transfer. Inbound is freshman Josiah Turner by way of Sacramento. He’s a big, strong, play making point guard whose lone fault appears to be an inconsistent jumper. He arrives in Tucson with lofty expectations. Already there’s NBA buzz but Sean Miller is making sure his talented guard stays grounded and focused on the season at hand. And Turner agrees. “I just let it fly by me,” he says when asked about the NBA hype and season’s expectations. NBA aside, the 6’3” point guard has a lot to accomplish in Tucson if the Wildcats expect to repeat any semblance of last season’s success. Also, don’t sleep on Jordin Mayes. The sophomore played well in a backup role one year ago and has put on significant size this off season. His improved strength should translate to playing time and tougher defense and the Wildcats should benefit from his steady shooting (45% from distance).

Arizona State: Want to talk uncertainty? If Jahii Carson – a talented freshman – doesn’t qualify with the NCAA this season, not only are the Sun Devils out a good freshman, they’re going to rely on a junior college transfer (by way of Iowa State) who shot a cool 27% and committed 59 turnovers in 29 games during his one season with the Cyclones. Chris Colvin is his name and Herb Sendek’s team – who often rely heavily on their floor general – will likely need him to play better than 2 TO/game whether Carson is available or not. Some accounts have Colvin playing well in practice and scrimmages to date which is a good sign for the senior-less Sun Devils. Also, if you’ve never seen the bouncy, 5’10” Carson in a mixtape, you’re welcome.

Colorado: Welcome to the Pac-12! Now give your best player to the NBA. The Buffs will have the steady Nate Tomlinson, a senior, at the point. He’s not going to light up a stat line – he scored 10 or more points just once last season – but he’s smart, confident, and takes care of the basketball. He’ll share time in the backcourt with Shannon Sharpe, a redshirt sophomore, whose game is very similar to that of Tomlinson. Together, they should make up a ball control monster – they averaged just 1.6 turnovers per game combined last year – befitting coach Tad Boyle’s guard centric play. Ultimately, the Buffs’ backcourt should be experience heavy while a little light on talent.

Utah: It could be a rough one for the Utes. They return a senior point guard, Josh Watkins, who managed to shoot 26% from three and turn the ball over three-and-a-half times a game last season. That said, he can score a bit (14 ppg) and as one of four returning players, he certainly will be relied upon as a leader. With Utah, in their double inaugural season (Pac-12 and welcoming new coach, Larry Krystkowiak), there’s a lot more to discuss than whether or not they have a veteran point guard. After all, they bring on thirteen new players. Thirteen! It should be interesting to see what Krystkowiak can do with all things new in Salt Lake.

USC: Jio Fontan is a very good basketball player. Too bad he won’t be playing basketball this season. Fontan’s injured knee is a major blow to the Trojans as the senior was expected to anchor an otherwise youthful team. Insert sophomore Maurice Jones, a talented scorer but not all together pure point guard. Kevin O’Neil teams are often point guard-centric and Jones’ ability to facilitate USC’s pro-style, set play offense will likely dictate much of the Trojans’ success. He played the position well in Fontan’s absence last season, averaging 12 points and 4 assists per game. An injury depleted lineup will ask a lot of the sophomore but his brief body of work as USC’s PG demonstrates the Trojans could be in good hands.

UCLA: Arguably the most important position in the entire conference – point guard of the 2011-12 UCLA Bruins – it is my belief that Lazeric Jones holds the keys to a very expensive car. The question is how good of a driver is Jones? If he’s drinking-milk-in-Indy-good, the Bruins are going to turn heads. With the front court they have, a solid, Ben Howland possession guard, could go a long way in feeding a sizable Bruin squad. If he drives like most LA drivers and continues on his enigmatic, stop-and-go path, well so too will UCLA. The senior had an up-and-down junior year, flashing brilliance and cluelessness while also battling injury, but this year he will be depended upon heavily. The Bruins’ backcourt is inexperienced (two new players) and depleted (two early departures and a suspension) so Jones will get the majority of minutes. Also worth keeping an eye on: can the fiery Jones be an effective leader? This team has some attitude issues (Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson) and Jones needs to be the stabilizing force both on and off the court.