Arizona Basketball Notes

Arizona head coach Sean Miller met with the media on Tuesday. Read on to see numerous notes on what he had to say about the Wildcats.

  • If you look at college basketball these days, there are not many true point guards. However, T.J. McConnell is certainly one of them.

    "There's a lot of combo guards that have the ball these days, maybe not as much of a traditional point guard and that is what T.J. is," Sean Miller said. "He is more of a traditional point guard in that he is on a quest to get his teammates involved, really is not thinking about scoring, although he can.

    "He really tries to do it on both sides, defense and offense, cares a lot about people say managing the game as a college quarterback, he thinks a lot about managing the game as a college point guard.

    "What you see is some of the balanced scoring we have and some of our players having big nights, he can give them some easy opportunities."

  • Nick Johnson's early season play has gotten some mixed reviews, but Miller does not seem to be too worried about it.

    "We need Nick to do everything for us," he said. "He's an all-around terrific player on defense and offense and for him, the role that he has on this year's team is key in that he has to play well for our team to be at its best.

    "Part of him playing well isn't to score 18 points, it's to do a little bit of everything. Early on he doesn't have the high assist total that he normally does, but I think that will come as things even themselves out here and we play more games.

    "No doubt about it, Nick Johnson is one of the key players to our team. He's the most experienced player, he is very, very versatile as a guard, and as he plays well, our team really follows him in many ways."

  • Aaron Gordon has had double digit points and rebounds in each of his first two games, but it has been his attitude that has impressed the coaching staff the most.

    "Aaron is a smart kid both on and off the court, very coachable," Miller said. "Some of the things we have stressed to him early on as a coaching staff, he picks right up on.

    "I think it is a real credit to him. It's not easy to play both the perimeter and the post, but for such a young player this early in the year, you can see him developing into this role even more as time moves on."

  • In addition, Gordon has done a good job of learning two different positions and being successful at both.

    "He looks very comfortable out there and that is really what I want to see," Miller said. "If he is comfortable, his talent really shines through. So far, so good and that's a good sign for us because we've thrown a lot at him.

    "He has a lot of responsibility on offense and on defense, because he is with both the perimeter and post groups. That is hard enough to ask an older player to do it, but when you first get to college to ask him to do it, it shows you really how talented he is and also smart."

  • Jordin Mayes has struggled in the first two games of the season and Miller implied that he has been pushing a bit.

    "Jordan just has to play with confidence," he said. "He has to come in the game both on offense and defense, keep us in the flow, and be himself. He doesn't have to make shots to stay in the game.

    "He is one of our smarter defensive players, he is a ball-handler that has been in a lot of environments in games. You want to be able to trust him coming in the game and making plays, keeping us in the flow."

  • Last season, there was a good chance that Mark Lyons was going to have the ball at the end of a close game. This season, that answer is a bit more up in the air.

    "We have a number of candidates who can be that," Miller said. "Aaron Gordon is one, Brandon Ashley is another guy. T.J. and Nick. Nick Johnson a year ago was in so many of those situations.

    "T.J. is adept at doing it. The one thing so far he hasn't shown is making free-throws, but keep in mind his career free-throw percentage is higher than Mark Lyons' is, it's just that he is off to a slow start and hopefully he will correct that."

  • One items coaches are often asked about is how they control their stress levels. On Tuesday, Miller admitted that it is not easy for a coach to do.

    "I don't know how I handle it," he said. "It's part of the job, you have to have balance as much as you possibly can with your family. I think all of us, it is like a tug of war at times just because this is a very time consuming job.

    "You look at the stretch we're in right now, there's some really long days going on when you play 5 games in 12 days. That's all part of it. I think we learn as coaches how to deal with it, manage it as much as you can.

    "The recruiting part of it is the thing that can really wear you out and I just think the lifespan of coaches now isn't going to be what it used to be. I don't think any coach is going to be in this forever."

  • Kaleb Tarczewski did not have any rebounds in the season opener, but bounced back in a big way against Long Beach State.

    "I think Kaleb is going to be fine," Miller said. "The first game was tough, because he didn't start and he was a little banged up with his hip. It's tough to really look at how he performed in the first game.

    "I don't think he was himself. Even in the game last night (Monday), if he would have played five or six more minutes, he would have had what I think what would have been one of the best games of his career.

    "He is finishing better around the basket, he is more mobile, more sure of himself, smarter. I think like you are seeing with Brandon, he is a better player than a year ago."

  • Arizona's starters are not the only ones to make an impact, as Miller was quick to point to two other players as well.

    "Rondae is a key contributor to our team," he said. "Gabe York and Rondae coming off the bench, those guys are as meaningful to our team as non-starters as maybe any non-starters are to their team respective to college basketball.

    "We need them to do everything, we need them to play well. If you look at their minutes total, they are playing 20-25 minutes per game, that's a lot. I expect Rondae and Gabe to continue to play well."

  • With the signing period starting on Wednesday, Miller took an opportunity to reflect on the current state of recruiting.

    "Those doors were already wide open," Miller said of Arizona's ability to recruit. "Our tradition speaks for itself. The number of great players that were here prior to my arrival is second to none. It's amazing. It's astonishing.

    "The difference now is that those players don't have a chance to be on the same teams for as long in today's world, so you don't get the value out of great recruiting classes that you once did. If you had a great recruiting class 10, 15 years ago that group would be together three years, two years, sometimes four year and then you fill in behind them and you have an older, experienced, great team. "

  • Freshman Elliott Pitts has yet to play this season, but that could be close to changing.

    "Elliott, we're hoping here over the next couple of days that he can return to practice. He has a wrist injury, wasn't broken, but really a kind of severe sprain is the diagnosis. He has been out for about seven days, but has been working very hard rehab wise and has some movement again in it.

    "We look for him to return. I don't really at this point have an answer one way or the other in terms of whether Elliott would redshirt or not, but I would tell you that I think the odds of him redshirting are slim.

    "To me, it's leaning a lot more towards his availability this year where we can count on him. He has practiced well and just looking at our team, injury, foul trouble, and just continued competition and improvement, I can see where Elliott can be a real part of this year's team moving forward."

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