Arizona isn’t done with its 2016 class yet, but there is a good chance that the center position looks how it will next season as well.
With Kaleb Tarczewski’s departure after the best season of his career, Arizona has a major question mark at center and the answer likely lies with Chance Comanche and Dusan Ristic.
Ristic has waited two years for this opportunity and although some speculated he may go play professionally in Europe, that move just wouldn’t make a ton of sense.
Why wait two years and then go when you finally have your shot at the starting job?
If Ristic is indeed going to become the starter, he needs to play much better than he did near the end of the season.
In his last six games of the season, Ristic only had 11 points and seven rebounds in 68 minutes of action.
That production just isn’t good enough and Arizona was hurt by the fact that there was absolutely nobody behind Kaleb Tarczewski that could come close to his production.
When the season first started, Ristic’s offensive numbers suggested that he should get more playing time.
In addition, he had some other bright spots. Before his six game streak where he disappeared, Ristic went 6-11 for 16 points in 17 minutes against Arizona State.
The offensive talent and potential is there and it is difficult to deny it. He needs plenty of work defensively and has barely improved in that area, but the offensive skill set should be good enough for him to stay longer on the court than he did late in the season.
Of course, Comanche made that much more difficult. Sean Miller doesn’t change his rotations much late in the season, but he didn’t have much of a choice here.
In his last six games of the season, Comanche finished with 13 points and nine rebounds in 45 minutes.
It does make you wonder what would have happened had Comanche played more throughout the season, as he had 11 games in which he did not see any action and 11 more in which he played five minutes or less.
The biggest difference between the two may not have been energy or skill, but the fact that Comanche got better as the season went on and Ristic didn’t.
It gives hope to a position where there was concern because you have to assume Comanche’s improvement will continue and his physical development will as well.
Arizona is still going to have concerns at the position and could play Lauri Markkanen at the five as well, so there is definitely some depth there.
Our guess as of now is that the position is Comanche’s to lose, but there is a lot of time for both to develop and you don’t know what Markkanen will bring to the table despite Arizona recruiting him to play the four.