Arizona basketball: Breaking down the rotation
Arizona’s season doesn’t officially start until Nov. 11, against Charleston Southern, but Media Day is Oct. 10, followed by the annual Red-Blue scrimmage on Oct. 21 and the first pre-season game on Oct. 31. So, what better time than now — just a few weeks before the season begins — to project the Wildcats’ starting lineup?
Head coach Sean Miller has held two open practices in recent weeks, but has given no indication as to who will be in the starting lineup come Nov. 11. At least three spots — point guard, shooting guard and small forward — are fairly safe bets.
At point guard, Xavier transfer Mark Lyons is expected to take the reins at what has been Arizona’s most volatile position in recent years. Lyons will be the third player running the point in the three years since Nic Wise graduated in 2010. Momo Jones transferred to Iona after the UA’s Elite Eight run in 2011, and highly-touted freshman Josiah Turner left the school after a disappointing 2012 season. Lyons averaged 15.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last year at Xavier.
Lyons is followed by Jordin Mayes, who is much better suited as a scorer off the bench than the starting point guard role he was thrust into at times last season.
At shooting guard, Nick Johnson should have a firm hold on the starting slot, as his only real competition comes from freshman guard Gabe York, who still should get a decent amount of playing time with his athleticism and deep shooting range. Johnson averaged 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his freshman season. Kevin Parrom should be back to full health after struggling a bit last season after being shot at home in New York. Parrom will likely fulfill this team’s sixth man role, and his ability to bring the ball up the court will prove valuable in spelling Lyons.
At small forward is a slimmed-down Solomon Hill, moving back to his natural three-spot after playing out of position at power forward for the undersized Wildcats last season. Hill is expected to be a candidate for Pac-12 player of the year after leading Arizona in both scoring (13.0 points per) and rebounding (7.7).
There are four candidates for the two big man slots in freshmen Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley, as well as sophomore Angelo Chol.
Chol has bulked up, and with a year of experience under his belt, he’s probably the best candidate to open the season as the starting center. Having a talented 7-footer like Tarczewski come off the bench is a nice problem to have, though.
At power forward, Ashley is probably more versatile while Jerrett is a bit more of a traditional choice, although he does have a shooting range out to the three-point line.
It’s a complete guessing game, but for now expect Jerrett gets the starting nod in the early going, although Ashley should be an impact player and eventual starter, as he probably has the highest ceiling of the four Wildcats recruits and can also play small forward.
Starting lineup prediction
PG: Mark Lyons
SG: Nick Johnson
SF- Solomon Hill
PF- Grant Jerrett
C- Angelo Chol
Key reserves: Kevin Parrom, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, Jordin Mayes