The transfer of former Xavier standout Mark Lyons to Arizona has been the biggest home run in what has been a very busy offseason for the Wildcats. Lyons is an experienced point guard that knows the system, fills an immediate need and provides an instant impact player. Not only is he ready to contribute big, he could be in line to be one of the best point guards in the Pac-12.
As many already know, Lyons committed to current UA head coach Sean Miller while Miller was still at Xavier. He is relatively familiar with Miller's system and will be able to start immediately given the lack of a legitimate point guard on the roster. The new Wildcat brings much-needed scoring, the ability to facilitate and he is a threat from long range.
His impact stretches farther than just numbers. The addition of Lyons assists UA in numerous ways, even if he is only a Wildcat for one season.
Lyons should make life a lot easier for the rest of the squad. With soon-to-be seniors like Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom on the roster, Lyons' arrival brings another veteran to the roster and gives Arizona one of the best veteran trios in the Pac-12.
Hill, in particular, should benefit greatly. Often Hill was forced to run the half-court offense out of necessity while simultaneously playing out of position at the power forward spot. Now with the trio of freshman big men and the arrival of Lyons, Hill should be asked to assume more of his natural small forward duties.
Some have questioned Lyons' character and whether that is fair or not, it is an issue that was brought to the forefront even before he committed. Regardless of whether or not the average fan believes he has something to prove, he has played several years at a reputable university and was one of the Musketeers' best players for the past two seasons.
His on-the-court performance speaks for itself and, at the very least, he will lead by example once the season begins.
When Josiah Turner officially departed, the Wildcats were left without a true point guard on the roster. The addition of Lyons obviously fills that gap until Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is ready to take over. What makes Arizona come out a winner in all of this is that Lyons is simply a better player at this point in time than Turner.
Turner could run the floor and was developing into a pretty solid defender as his freshman season progressed, but he had trouble scoring consistently – something that isn't a problem for Lyons – and Turner could never seem to stop turning the ball over. Lyons, while averaging over two turnovers a game a season ago, should do a better job of taking care of the ball in Miller's system.
Lyons isn't exactly a sniper from long range, but he shoots well enough to keep an eye on and he isn't shy about shooting. He connected on just a shade under 40 percent of his shot attempts from beyond the arc in his final season at Xavier and he should get an even better opportunity to find open looks at Arizona.
Lyons' shooting ability will open the floor for other players to score on offense. He is a ball-dominator at times, but he makes plays and will allow his teammates to get open more often.
The arrival of Lyons will allow players to play in their proper positions. For the first time in the Sean Miller era, Arizona appears to possess a well rounded roster that will have players out of position very little. Lyons will allow players like Nick Johnson and Gabe York to assume their natural role of shooting guard more than splitting the point guard duties.
Now both Johnson and York will be asked to play the point on a very limited basis rather than having both play a position they aren't quite suited for at this point in time.
Arizona has plenty of players that can score, but outside of Solomon Hill, no one has shown they con do it on a consistent basis. With Lyons, UA receives a player that has averaged double figures the previous two seasons and should be able to do the same as a Wildcat.
While Hill and even players like Parrom and Johnson have the ability to put up big scoring numbers on any given night, Lyons should take a lot of the pressure off of these guys and allow the production to be distributed equally on offense.
Averaging 1.3 steals a game this past season, Lyons has the ability to disrupt the opposing offense with regularity. He should help ease the impact of the loss of Kyle Fogg. One of the best perimeter defenders in the Pac-12, Fogg exhausted all of his eligibility. With Lyons on board, the perimeter has someone that can defend the outside shot and create havoc in the opposition's backcourt.
Aiding the Youth
Lyons can help ease the transition to the college level for a player like York while assisting a player like Johnson in his transition from freshman to sophomore. Lyons has played meaningful basketball at a high level and has faced very stiff competition. His experience from his time at Xavier should help him guide the younger players at Arizona.
How much he will actually help is to be determined, but having a player with three years of high-level college experience coming to the roster is a big boost by itself. Now add into the equation the fact that Lyons was one of the key cogs in that Musketeer roster and you have a player that is not only going to offset the loss of Turner, but surpass the impact Turner brought to the table.
Lyons in a Wildcats' uniform is huge and it's a move that could have UA playing into late March, maybe even April.
Lyons will help Wildcats in many ways
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