Arizona’s freshmen continue to improve at a rapid rate, which has significantly helped Arizona during its time lacking key personnel.
“We have a very youthful team,” Sean Miller said. “I know college basketball is younger and I get that, but I am only coaching the team I have and we have a lot of players in different roles.
“Our freshmen, every time they play against a different style, it’s the first time. Now that we’re in conference play, it takes those guys a few weeks to understand what we mean when we talk about the intensity, the familiarity that exists between coaches and players.”
Hitting the freshman wall is a topic that fans and media often talk about, but Miller does not believe that such a thing exists.
“Not anymore because those guys are wired differently and they have different expectations,” he said.
“They have such a bigger role now than before. They may have more peaks and valleys. You feel it more when they are in a key role.
“We don’t want to continue where we make a few miscues to allow a team back in, but that’s our team right now and we have to work to improve that.”
Rawle Alkins has been extremely consistent this season and much of that has to do with his approach.
“Rawle is as consistent of a freshman as we have ever had,” Miller said. “It starts off the court by how he approaches school, being on time, what he’s like when he doesn’t play well and what he’s like in the early season workouts versus now.
“He’s the same. He almost has a gift where even his expression during the game, he really is even keeled and it is fueled by his love of the game.
“I haven’t been around a player that loves it more than him. He really wants to be great and he puts the work in. How easy he has been to deal with is something that has been really fun to have as part of your team.”
Lauri Markkanen gets the most national attention out of Arizona’s freshmen and rightfully so, but he too as some room for improvement.
“Learning how to manage his fouls is next up for him and we have to help him with that as well,” Miller said. “He is trying hard to be a better defender, so he makes harder plays around the rim, on the ball, tries to draw charges.
“There’s a time and place depending on how many fouls you have to do those types of things. The other teams are trying to put fouls on him as well. They are challenging Lauri on post ups and drives.
“I think he is way, way more able than people realize at seven-feet tall, mobility wise to be in the right spot. I think that is the one thing that has taken away from some of his highs. You think about Dusan, it took him two and a half years to be in the right place more often and Lauri has only been here for half a season.”