Tag Archives: Kyle Fogg

Quincy Pondexter did it, who might this year?

Quincy Pondexter arrived in Seattle, a five-star recruit with the promise of NBA written all over him. A program changing prospect, expectations were high. But after his first three seasons as a Husky, those seemed like empty hopes. Not to say he was a total bust, but after he came in with expectations and posted a pretty solid freshman campaign (11/4/2, 109/22), his subsequent two seasons displayed minimal improvement.

Season Pts/Rebs/Assists per game Ortg/Shot%
Freshman 11/4/2 109/22
Sophomore 10/5/2 106/22
Junior 12/6/2 112/22

Consistently sound but was this to be QPon’s ceiling? His 2007 five-star contemporaries were being drafted if not leading their teams to great places. Pondexter got to dance in 2009 but headed into 2009-10, the Dawgs didn’t have particularly high expectations for their senior.

Season Pts/Rebs/Assists per game Ortg/Shot%
Senior 19/7/2 122/26

Pac-12 tournament champions. Sweet 16. Pondexter’s monster year came in the nick of time. And that’s the beauty of college sports. Maybe there’s corruption on the recruiting side of things and a product that’s not quite professional grade, but like watching a Snap Chat, there’s something to knowing that what’s right in front of you will soon be gone. The senior is that rare position in which it’s laid on the line for one full season. There’s no next because, as the commercial says, most of them will be going professional in something other than sports (though if you have a season like Pondexter you’re probably going professional in something related to sports, namely playing them).

Quincy embodied that for a season – a relatively rare accomplishment – and I’m sure we could each recount a moment in which a senior’s gut captivated us. But there is a precedent for what QPon did. I could rattle on about Jason Terry or Kyle Fogg from my backyard. Landry Fields, Carrick Felix, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aaron Brooks from elsewhere. These were guys that followed similar paths as the aforementioned QPon and erupted with their NCAA clock nearing expiration.

Player Fr-Jr Averages* Senior Year Sr Year Post Season
Jason Terry** 8p 2r 3a 22p 3r 6a NCAA 3 seed. Lost 1st round***
Aaron Brooks 11p 3r 4a 102.4/20.3 18p 4r 4a 117.7/25.1 NCAA 2 seed. Lost E8
Landry Fields 7p 4r 1a 101.1/21.8 22p 9r 3a 109.6/31.2 14-18. No tournaments
Matthew Bryan-Amaning 6p 4r 1a 94.5/20.2 15p 8r 1a 112.5/24.9 NCAA 7 seed. Lost 2d round
Kyle Fogg 8p 2r 2a 106.8/17.8 14p 4r 2a 110.6/23.1 NIT
Carrick Felix 8p 3r 1a 95.1/21.8 15p 8r 2a 110.4/22.2 NIT. Lost 2d round

*These are quick and dirty averages across their first three seasons on campus
**No ORtg and %shot data available
***Utterly broke my heart to see Michael Wright mistakenly step onto the court before inbounding the ball late and sealing a first round exit for one of the greatest Wildcat seniors of all time which I watched alone in my bedroom on an antennaed TV on a Friday afternoon that somehow was a middle school half day.

And so I ask, who could do that this year? Who amongst the statesmen of the Pac-12 can embrace their impending eligibility and have a monster swan song?

John Gage, F, Stanford – This biggun was called the best shooter in the Pac-12 by Jeff Eisenberg. Not many 13mpg players get called out as being the best shooter in a conference. What’s more, Gage is a member of the senior class Dwight Powell stuck around to take care of unfinished business with. With Andy Brown unfortunately off the roster, Gage should have further chances to play that stretch forward position.

Richard Solomon, C, Cal – Another biggun making the breakout senior list, Solomon has tremendous up side that he has yet to realize. I love his athleticism and think he’s on a roster where that athleticism can flourish. He’s foul prone, sure, but if he can manage to refine his game a little, look out.

Angus Brandt, C, Oregon State – He spent last season injured and was poised to break out then. He’s now going to be relied upon even further as Eric Moreland won’t soon be joining the team.

Jermaine Marshall, G, ASU – He put up very solid numbers one season ago at Penn State (15/4/3) and then he graduated to Tempe (not from Tempe). Those are already gaudy numbers but I could see him having the opportunity to go even bigger with Jahii Carson making moves throughout the lane for this spot up shooter.

JT Terrell, G, USC – Terrell is a shooter and would likely seem to thrive in a shooting system. Exit: Kevin O’Neill. Enter: Andy Enfield. Dunk city is going to give Terrell further freedom to fire it up. He’s the top scorer returning to the Galen Center and should likely receive the lion’s share of touches.

Mike Moser, F, Oregon -This one maybe isn’t quite deserving of making this list but as compared to his previous season, Moser is poised to have another monster season. He’s in a system that doesn’t have Anthony Bennett and he’s already shown just how good he can be (2011-12 Moser was 14/10).

Somebody really cool that we barely know about who’s role is suddenly expanded or talent realized because of the fleeting nature of his time on the campus where he’s fallen in love with coaches and teammates and fans and the experience since arriving a green, 18-year-old with aspirations of t-shirts and hats – Any names come to minds?

BB: The Heart that Stayed in Staples

Looks like I wasn’t the only one who needed a minute.

It appears as if that shot put of a three-point attempt as time was preparing to expire at Staples was the last of what Kyle Fogg had to give. His five-shot effort in Round 1 of the NIT was tragically indicative of a man who’d lost the will to fight.

And it sucks.

For all the work he’d put into this season – taking 1000s of shots, lifting to exhaustion, growing into a leader – to come down to an unglamorous, two-thirds capacity, National Invitational game broadcast by a ring bearing Wildcat had to feel like defeat before the tip.

Which is odd for the kid who took what appeared to be a season ending gut punch from Washington and channeled it into a 7-2 close and a Pac-12 Tournament Championship game appearance; asserting himself as the heart and soul of this team.

Then there was that championship game. Another gut punch, a two-point defeat with the season in the balances. In January, the pain quickly manifested as effort, because there was still work to be done, goals accomplished, and games to win.

The second blow to the belly came later, with little season remaining. And what can you do when that punch simultaneously rips your heart out?

I unglamorously watched the Bucknell Blunder alone, horizontally on my couch, drink(s) in hand, donning similar – if not identical – attire to Josiah Turner. My enthusiasm for that game essentially matched the Wildcats’ despite both of our best efforts to get behind this new experience. I exchanged texts with eight different friends surrounding the strangeness of the event. Fogg took five shots, none for the first fifteen minutes of the game. It was the fewest shots he’d attempted and points he’d scored (5) since that very Washington game two months ago.

And to be clear, I’m making no excuses. Bucknell was terrific in exploiting Arizona’s glaring weaknesses and playing the role of “better team.” It was a game they were better prepared for, wanted more, and deservedly won.

But boy, oh boy is it tough to give effort when your chest cavity is devoid its pacemaker. That Colorado effectively ended Arizona’s season and Kyle Fogg’s career. The senior had so courageously become the centerpiece of this team, setting the tone for what very nearly was an all-time memorable final twelve games.

But it didn’t end that way and the Wildcats couldn’t advance without their heart, as he no longer had his.

BB: Kyle Fogg is Wrapping Things Up. Nicely.

This is also posted at pointguardu.com, a great source of Wildcat hoops.

If you watched Kyle Fogg’s effort against the Washington Huskies in Tucson back on January 28, you saw him trying.

The senior tried so hard. He knew what a win meant and he wanted to win. I maintain it was the single greatest example of trying to do too much I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. He made two of his four shots, all of which were attempted in the first half, grabbed no rebounds, and coughed the ball up five times.

And if you could stand to watch him during the post game press conference, dejected doesn’t even begin to describe how the senior looked. Slumped in his shoulders, mumbled in his responses, blank in his gaze, he looked defeated. As if the toll of four transitional and trying years, an underwhelming 5-4 start, and the weight of Tucson’s collective basketball focus had finally become too much.

It was not.

Since sitting in that small room after the Washington game, Fogg has been the best player in the Pacific-12 Conference. He’s twice won the conference’s Player of the Week award and take a peak at these numbers: 16.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg.

But here’s the biggest number: seven. The Wildcats are 7-1 since that potentially finishing loss at home and Fogg has been the centerpiece of that. Ensuring that Arizona will not go quietly into the 2012 off-season. That Fogg will not be the first Arizona senior in more than twenty years to play in just two NCAA tournaments.

You realize before he picked this team up on his back they were all but dead? A game over five hundred in arguably the worst major conference ever with two home losses and a pending road trip to the Bay Area? All but dead indeed and he didn’t let that happen, winning the first of his two POW awards during the Bay sweep.

This perfect little run very well could have Fogg and his Wildcats dancing but it’s really just icing on the cake for the least suspecting four-year starter in recent Arizona Basketball history.

When it’s all said and done, Fogg will have started at least the sixth most games in Arizona basketball history. Up there with the likes of Frye, Stoudamire, and Cook. Those aren’t names you’ll soon forget. And you shouldn’t soon forget Kyle Fogg, either.

He never wowed us with skill, often looking the part of a project when this program needed him to be a star. Fogg was lightly recruited to say it nicely and didn’t receive a scholarship offer until the Arizona program was at rock bottom.

The unranked, unoffered, unassuming kid from Brea will now likely be a First Team All-Conference player. One of the hardest, most self-made players to wear an Arizona jersey. Just like in that Washington game, he’s tried.

So take yourself back into that room with Fogg. Down – oh so down – but clearly he wasn’t out. Because there were at least nine more games to start. To be remembered as the great Wildcat he is.

He won’t stop trying.

The Best College Basketball Player

He’s probably a head short or a step slow. Most likely he plays well below the rim and they use words like heady, gutsy, and probably erratic, too when describing his game. Toss inconsistent into the adjective heap while you’re at it. Mind you, he’s not bad.

He runs the show, you see. He’s that senior, the one who – when he’s not on your team and sometimes even when he is – seems to be playing his sixth year of eligibility. You hate him for that. You love him for that.

That’s the best player in college basketball.

Not the two-guard or the dominant center, the one-and-done or the guy waving the towel. My favorite is that senior guard, the one who’s got the ball in his hands making decisions for better or worse.

And you know the shot.

The outlet pass out of a defensive rebound finds him curling right around the free throw line. He’s dribbling up the floor and has space. The home court is loud, urging his team once down eleven who’s cut it to five with four to play. And now that guard, the one who for three-and-a-half years you’ve seen high and low, whom you’ve loved and hated, is streaking up the court.

On the night he’s a few for a lot. Fading more than striking, but the lead is back in sight.

He crosses mid court, the opposition scrambling to their defensive assignments. For the briefest of moments, the soft handed big man is open on the far block. A good – not even great – pass would find him available for an easy pair, further cutting the lead. But that’s not his play because the ball is in his hands, the crowd swelling, the defense on its heels.

And that’s when it happens.

Full speed, under some semblance of control that can’t be fully comprehend until you’ve attempted it on your own time, he pulls up, elevating for the jump shot that you discourage with every conservative bone in your fan body. You hate him for it. You love him for it.

The odds say the shot isn’t going to fall. There’s absolutely nothing right about it. But he took the shot and it gets through the rim faster than any coach could find a sub. You’re grabbing a stranger and screaming before you understand what just happened. The suited man on the opposing bench is calling timeout, the roof is now off the building and that guy, the one with the ball in his hands making decisions for better or worse, hit that shot.

For what’s better than the ill-advised momentum changer?

When he was on my team, he went by Jason Gardner, Steve Kerr, Nic Wise, Salim, Jason Terry, and Reggie Geary. And you hated him. When I hated him his name was Richard Midgley, Ryan Appleby, Stanford guards of the 90’s and early 00’s, Derek Glasser, Aaron Brooks, Luke Ridnour, Darren Collison, Cameron Dollar, Tyus Edney, and I’m no doubt missing others.

Yeah you cringed and smiled a little reading that list. That’s ok, I hurt compiling it. But these guys are a staple of college basketball, a reason this game is great. And don’t be confused. This is no tribute to the little guy. This is a commentary on the back breaker that no coach would coach and the shot we all secretly love. The reality television of jumpers.

So who’s that guy this year?

To date, I’ve seen Zeek Jones carry the Bruin burden and done so with onions. Garret Sim broke Arizona’s back out of the corner in Tucson as part of a senior campaign that has him leading the conference in eFG%. Carlon Brown and Nate Tomlinson have fired daggers in Boulder, including a Duck hunter moment against Oregon. Jorge has been the quintessential ill-advised firer carrying Monty’s crew into first while Kyle Fogg and Devoe Joseph are willing their teams to wins down the stretch. No name on this list will wow you or be called out by David Stern. But I guarantee you’ll be screaming one of these names at the small, outdated and cornered television in your go-to bar that writes you off as loyal so long as you run up an appropriate tab.

Of note, Aaron Bright is well on his way to this list although just a sophomore.

And so here we are at the stretch run. Just six games remaining in an unpredictable Pac-12 season and a point at which legacies will be cemented, hearts broken, and a pack of teams will vie for a shot to dance – one shining moment if you will.

Who’s going to be the guy?

Week 3 Pac-12 Review

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com. Ryan is the Sports Director at KVOA-TV in Tucson, AZ, produces some great podcasts, knows Arizona sports inside-and-out, and votes for the Heisman.

Once again the home teams – for the most part – won for the locals and moved the Pac-12 season along at an unshocking pace. There was a fight but then a bunch of uncompetitive blowouts. So much for parody. Until of course next Thursday rolls around and once again anything can happen. Stay tuned to your local Root TV network.

Here is one thing to keep in mind as your squad battles along: the top four finishers in the conference receive a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. A small but potentially dance inducing fact in this lesser conference year. The weekend:

Leader in the Clubhouse: Sure, Cal and Stanford sit atop the conference at 5-1 each and Washington – despite seemingly no consistency – is 4-1. But this weekend may have proven that the Oregon Ducks are for real. Their sweep of the Arizona schools was the most impressive feat of the weekend, befitting the team du jour title. At 4-2, Dana Altman’s team has lost only to Washington and Cal and is about to host three straight, winnable games (the LA schools followed by OSU). If Devoe Joseph can continue piecing together his dark horse POY candidacy, Eugene could wind up playing host to both the football and basketball conference titles. And with toughness above talent likely the key to winning this talent thin conference, Dana’s Ducks may be on to something as the only team with three road victories. I won’t go so far as to call this group favorites, but they’re a far more intriguing team than the previous flavor of the week, Colorado, and certainly tougher than the road weary Washington Huskies. My advice? Don’t sleep on the Ducks.

Game of the Weekend: Two desperate teams – Arizona seeking its identity, OSU just a win – needed extra time and some restraints to figure things out. The game culminated in a shoving match after Kyle Fogg was lightly fouled by Jared Cunningham and Fogg felt obligated to let Cunningham know he had also made the basket. Beyond that, it was a thrilling Arizona victory; a game in which Brendon Lavender – a 10.6 minutes per game type player – needed to shoot 5-6 from three-point range for the Wildcats to even have a chance. It was the Beavers second straight OT game, this one following their four-OT loss to Stanford. OSU continues to be a mystery after entering conference play as an intriguing two-loss team. They now find themselves 1-5 with losses to ASU and WSU and as the only team to beat Cal (handily at that). Confounding indeed.

The Big Loser: As previously mentioned, winning the 2012 conference title is going to take some toughness. And by toughness I don’t mean shoving matches when you’ve already wrapped up the game. By toughness, I don’t mean finding yourself down 17 at home before you decide to play defense. So, who showed the least toughness this weekend? The Arizona Wildcats. Their melee showed glaring insecurities and their loss to Oregon showed gross passivism. Sean Miller’s group continues to play sans identity and it looks as if everyone’s waiting around for someone else to do something about it. Most telling of Arizona’s woes has been their reliance on the three ball. The Wildcats fired up 39 long balls this weekend and have shot the most in the conference and 89th most in the nation. For no better way to put it, that’s mid-major territory and not where Arizona wants to be. The Wildcats will need to answer some questions quickly as they head into a difficult three week stretch of games.

What we learned: This conference is starting to take shape. There’s an elite class (Cal, Stanford); an OK-I-see-you class (Washington, Oregon); a work-yet-to-do class (Arizona, UCLA, Colorado); a whose-season-can-we-ruin class (WSU, OSU); and then there’s ASU, USC, and Utah. While Oregon may have shown the most toughness, Washington isn’t going to fade away that fast and Terrence Ross isn’t about to forget how to hoop (30 and 14 this weekend). Cal won a game (home against Colorado) that they had almost no business winning but still managed to; it was championship stuff. Because much of the weekend followed suit, there weren’t necessarily amy outliers by which to make conclusions. Josh Smith didn’t have a particularly big game (6pts, 5rbs) but then again he didn’t need to. Tony Wroten still didn’t hit his free throws (7-13); Brock Motum remains a dark horse conference POY (17/2/2); and ASU got better with less (Trent Lockett left the game with an injury). It is worth mentioning that just because Colorado was blown out by Stanford, it is not an indication of the direction of their season. Their performance at Cal was sufficient to say this group is real and essentially legitimizes the ski schools as a trip not to be taken lightly.

Early Week YouTuber: OK, so there wasn’t much exciting going down on the court in the Cities of the Pac. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen elsewhere:


BB: Derrick Williams is Gone, Time to be a Team

This post can also be found at pointguardu.com

A puzzling Arizona season manifested itself in the closing moments of the Wildcats’ overtime win against Oregon State.

The scuffle was instigated by an aggressive and agitated Kyle Fogg who quickly backed off and disappeared from the melee. It was then propagated by Solomon Hill who demonstrated the most interest in the bout but was ultimately a non-factor. Others attempted to make their way into the shoving match, but were unable to make an impact. Then, when the dust settled, it was Kyryl Natyazhko who was ejected.

Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like the 44 minutes of basketball leading up to the events on the baseline? Perhaps the UCLA game? SDSU, Gonzaga, or Mississippi State?

Much has been made of this team’s lack of a go-to player and the Oregon State game confirmed that the 2011-12 Wildcats do not have one. There are some talented pieces to Sean Miller’s roster but no one individual can be consistently relied upon.

Perhaps this group is playing with the ghost of Derrick Williams; waiting for their knight in shining armor to bail them out of any and every circumstance. The vicious forward undoubtedly played the go-to role and it was going to be difficult to replace him regardless of how good Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, and the rest of the freshman class were. Attack was his default mode and it showed as he led an underwhelming Arizona team to the Elite Eight. And while having a go-to player is not imperative, it’s certainly an advantage and a pressure release for a team’s perhaps less talented players.

But Arizona’s victory confirmed another thing about these Wildcats: the sum can be greater than the parts.

On Thursday, it was Brendon Lavender, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the second half of the critical home win; supplementing the efforts of his teammates. Before that, Jordin Mayes, Jesse Perry, Hill, Fogg, and Johnson have each played the lead but not without significant other contributions. There certainly have been flashes of individual brilliance amongst this group, a positive indication that this team can do things.

But the ultimate success of this group will be their ability to overcome a lack of nightly individual output and play significant team basketball; particularly in a season featuring lineups centered by the 6’6” Kevin Parrom and absent of a scorer in the teens. The team ability and concept are there, the consistency is yet to come. Coach Miller called the Oregon State victory the “best game of the season.”

And at this critical juncture in the Wildcats’ season, the Wildcats could be gelling at just the right time.

With their toughest games yet to come, Arizona still controls their tournament destiny. To ensure they’re indeed dancing, the ‘Cats will have to continue to shake the ghost of Williams and continue to improve as a team. Growing on their “best game of the season.”

When Kyle Fogg chirped at Jared Cunningham and Solomon Hill jumped into the raucous and Kyryl Natyazkho was ejected, some individual faults may have been exposed. But look more closely and you’ll notice it was sixteen Wildcats the Beavers had to deal with.

Not one.


BB: 3000 Miles From Home is not Exposing

The first loss of the season exposed nothing new about the Wildcats.

I’ll get the obvious taken care of quickly. This is an undersized team. We knew this starting with Seattle Pacific and we’ll be acutely aware of it right up until size arrives next fall. This is a team without a point guard. We haven’t known this for too long but it’s becoming more apparent with each game that Josiah Turner needs to time to develop and Jordin Mayes is a terrific off-guard. This team is still learning to play in Sean Miller’s system.

There. It’s done and I’ll stop beating that horse who’s pretty dead and will continues to be. And rather than pick apart a developing team following their first loss 3000 miles from home, I’ll highlight what the Wildcats taught us and learned about themselves 3000 miles out.

X-factor. As Kevin Parrom continues to find his basketball legs – rediscovering his touch and getting some lungs about him – he’ll be an obvious improvement to the talent level Arizona puts on the floor. We all know he’s versatile, capable of scoring inside and out while guarding nearly any position. He’s an unquestioned talent. But what makes Parrom special is that by simply being available to this team, he makes them a better team. His return did not coincidentally coincide with Solomon Hill’s two best games of the season. He takes loads of pressure off of Hill and Kyle Fogg and brings a calming presence to the team. Parrom is tough, unflappable, and the poster child of what Sean Miller teams play like. He’s the heart of Arizona basketball and they’re better for it.

Guards. My favorite lineup to date has been Mayes, Fogg, Parrom, Hill, and Perry. In second would be Turner, Johnson, Parrom, Hill, Perry. Notice a theme? I like the heavy guard sets because that is the undeniable strength of this team. These lineups, while undersized, offer tremendous versatility that can cause matchup problems Arizona should be able to exploit as they grow comfortable within the offense and defense. If there’s one drawback to this group of guards, it’s that they’re missing the ability to penetrate the lane. Hill has occasionally been able to do this and does a good job of recognizing and exploiting mismatches; however, as a whole, these guards struggle to get into the lane. The exciting part is that as Turner grows comfortable with the college game, we’ll get to see just how dynamic of a scorer and distributor he can be. Once he figures this out, the sky is the limit. He’ll open the floor up for his fellow guards to slash and shoot, highlighting their strengths. We saw glimpses of this in New York, as Turner played his best basketball of the season in The Garden. Unfortunately, that also happened to coincide with Arizona’s largest opponent to date and subsequent first loss.

Shooter. Jordin Mayes is a shooter and a fantastic one at that. Unfortunately, and while they’re not mutually exclusive, he is not necessarily a point guard. He’s been doing a very good job filling in at the position and is undoubtedly serviceable. However, I think we learned this weekend that the emergence of Turner as a true point guard (in the more modern sense) will greatly benefit this team. It will – as I previously stated – open up the floor for Mayes and others to shoot which fortunately they’re good at. Mayes’ game is one of my favorites on the team and he’s vital to the team’s success. He plays with presence and exudes confidence – something we don’t always see from Fogg or Hill. Now, that’s not to say that Fogg and Hill are not confident, I’m simply saying, Mayes’ ability to be a serviceable point guard has a lot more to do with his confidence than his skill set. In turn, this simply makes him a good basketball player.

Predator. Jesse Perry is tough. He’s been tasked with being the “everything front court” for this team and has done a phenomenal job of that. It goes without saying, that if he struggles, so too will the Wildcats. I’d mentioned how important Parrom is to this team – his presence takes this team from competitive to good. Perry, on the other hand, makes this team, a team. Anecdotal evidence: Perry did not play well for 35 minutes against St. John’s. He was missing from the field and getting beat up on the glass. It’s therefore no surprise that as he struggled, the Johnnies managed to build a late, eight point lead. They were expanding their zone and forcing Arizona’s guards to penetrate (which they were unable to do) without fear of an interior scoring threat. So when Perry snapped out of his struggles, scoring 6 of his 11 points in the final five minutes, BOOM! Arizona pulled away and won. The senior brings more than just a big body (see others on the team for that). He allows this guard heavy team to play to their strengths, while fortifying the frontline, and keeping teams honest.

BB: Game One at the Garden

It’s really a shame there aren’t more seniors in the college game.

They know systems, they lead and – most importantly – they don’t get rattled. Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry didn’t get rattled.

Not when Perry was struggling from the field (1-6 FGs) and lost amidst the Mike Dunlap 1-1-3 Zone.

Aside: Arizona shot its way to victory using the three point basket. They were 14-29 (48%) from distance, 11-31 (35%)  from inside the arc. Who remembers how frustrating the 1-1-3 was when it wasn’t working and teams rained three balls on the ‘Cats? I for one certainly do and, while it worked when it worked, it was frustrating. That was a lot of open threes tonight and lots were hit. Bear down.

Not when the mood got chippy and players had to be separated. And not when the Wildcats went down eight with seven to play and the Johnnies fans were finally making an appearance.

That’s what you’ve gotta love about seniors; because when your team needs a play (Fogg draws charge, Nurideen Lindsey fouls out) they get one. Or your team needs a different look (Perry 3-4 FGs in final seven minutes) to once and for all pull away.

You can’t quite coach that stuff. You can most certainly teach every little thing about your system; run the offense, help on defense, multiple in-bounds, a press break, set play 1, set play 2, etc. You can write all the X’s and O’s you want, but when push comes to shove, when the lights are on and the clock ticking, someone has to make a play.

What Perry and Fogg demonstrated Thursday night in the Garden is that it’s going to be just fine for this team to take its time learning. That Josiah Turner can figure out the college game and Nick Johnson can relax a little. That Angelo Chol doesn’t have to be the front court messiah and Sidiki Johnson can study hard and get a good grade in Team Hoops 101.

Perhaps it’s befitting I write this on a night that Tim Tebow blows up the NFL, but there’s something to be said for the intangibles. For simply knowing you’re going to get it done.

On Thursday night, one team had two seniors while the other had none. One team got it done. In November, on the road, I like the win. I love the seniors’ play.

It also doesn’t hurt to have freshmen:

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.