No need to doubt Wildcat basketball's leadership
Former UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden once preached to his team, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
Out of all the overused Wooden quotes tossed around college basketball, this particular cliché is most valuable to Arizona basketball. Good old Wooden always knew character and leadership were connected.
The Wildcats are at a standstill as to who is going to step up as the leader of the pack this season. Just look at the roster and you’ll see there is one lone senior in back-up guard Jordin Mayes. So the big question is, who is the chief this year?
Last season’s roster was gifted with five seniors, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom led the team as seasoned veterans. They were sort of the Superman and Batman of the Justice League, minus the capes.
However, the loss of these leaders and the fact that there is only one senior this season are not necessarily bad news for Arizona. It just means that each team member has to step up, even the freshmen.
Junior Nick Johnson has been noted by the rest of the team and coaches as being the loudest player, shouting words of encouragement and motivation to his team during practices and games.
Johnson named his older brother junior Chris Johnson, Mayes, junior T.J. McConnell, and sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley as other leaders on the team. His own leadership strategy comes from learning from others.
“My freshman year I had Kyle Fogg. He’s like a big brother to me,” Nick Johnson said. “He really taught me how to work hard in offseason and really fight for what you want.”
Mayes is more of a quiet leader. He has been on the team the longest and has worked with head coach Sean Miller the longest.
Mayes said he knows his role as the only senior means he will have to work harder, but that the weight of the team is not all on his shoulders.
“Actually it feels kind of good being the older guy, being a leader for my team,” Mayes said. “I think I’ll have to step it up from the years that I have been here, but also we have other leaders on the team too and everybody can be a leader. It’s about being vocal on the floor and off the court.”
The reality for this Arizona team is that there is not one individual leader to look up to. Everyone will be expected to take the reigns and gain the trust of the pack, and with the regular season not starting until November, there is time to do that.
The six freshmen have a variety of leaders to learn from and a wide selection of “big brothers.”
After all, when you’re 7 feet tall like Tarczewski, your team literally has to look up to you anyways.
— Follow Megan Coghlan @MeganCoghlan