Young bigs waiting for a shot

One of the most frequent calls on the Wildcat postgame show is about why Fendi Onobun and Jordan Hill aren't seeing more playing time. Fans want to know if it is a talent issue, a development issue or something else. In the end, it could be that Arizona is too talented to have depth.

That last sentence may sound strange to you. Arizona has as much talent 1-14 as any team in the country, yet has five players averaging over 30 minutes a game. As it stands, the team feels its starting five gives it the best chance to win.

"The top five is just too good," said assistant Josh Pastner. "It's not that these other guys can't play, it's just that our starting five gives us the best chance to win."

Pastner was quick to point out that both Onobun and Hill have played well in practice and he is confident that they can come in an help this team if needed.

"Let me stress that they are good players," Pastner said. "They practice really hard and play well in practice, so I know it is frustrating for them."

In many ways their situation is a Catch-22. They need to show what they can do to earn playing time, but can't show what they can do until they get playing time. Right now the more consistent, if less athletic, Bret Brielmaier has been getting what few minutes are available inside. The fact that the Cats have gone with only one post player in the starting line-up has also limited their opportunities.

"They have to be ready to make the most of their opportunity when it comes," Pastner said. "When they get their shot they have to impress."

The schedule has not helped either. The Wildcats have played a difficult schedule so far. When they did play lesser opponents, the starters had their own defensive issues to work on and that limited the chance for the young guys to play.

"We haven't had much of a chance to experiment," Pastner said. "Our schedule has just been too strong and we have not been able to go very deep. Hopefully we can get these guys into the game and we can really see what they can do."

Pastner stressed that the two young post players have not gotten too down.

"I am sure they are frustrated, but they have not sulked," Pastner said. "I think they truly understand that they have to be ready when their opportunity comes."

So far this season Onobun has played in just three games and has played a total of 15 minutes. He's averaging 2.0 ppg and 1.0 rpg.

Hill has bounced in and out of the rotation this season. He has played in six of the eight games and has a 2.5 ppg average. He's pulling down 1.7 rebounds a game and has blocked six shots. Positioning and fouls have been an issue with the freshman big man.

The Cats can probably survive this season without going too deep on the bench. With Kirk Walters back, at least in a limited capacity, the Cats have enough big men to get by. The best Wildcat teams rarely went deeper than seven or eight players.

That being said, the Cats will need Onobun and Hill. Maybe not this year, but surely next year. The Cats lose Radenovic and Walters to graduation and Brielmaier will be a senior. The Cats will have to turn to younger players.

"We may need those two this season, but even if we don't we'll need them next year," Pastner added. "We'd sure like to get them some game experience this year. We'd like to get a better feel for their strengths and weaknesses outside the practice situation.

"We'd like to get them in there and hopefully they can make the most of their opportunity."


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