Sean Miller confident before busy early season stretch
With No. 5 Arizona preparing to wrap up what might be the toughest week of the season, head coach Sean Miller said he is satisfied with where his team is. But how they improve will define the 2013-14 Wildcats basketball team.
“This is the University of Arizona,” Miller said at his press conference Friday. “This is college basketball, and this is the month of November. It’s about improvement, cohesiveness, teamwork, togetherness [and] being able to answer the bell on a neutral court against a great team and great program.”
The Wildcats (5-0) are two games into an 11-day stretch where they will play four games against competitive opponents, who, like Arizona, are still trying to answer the early season questions. On Friday, Miller did not identify one exact dire issue or problem that must be addressed with the current Wildcats team. However, he did try to clear the air about some issues that fans may have about this team.
The first is the lack of depth in the number of bodies this Arizona team has. Miller said that, as of now, there are seven guys whom the coaches feel confident playing during important stretches of games. That doesn’t mean the Wildcats are in trouble, nor that some of the players who are currently sitting on the bench won’t be a vital part of this team later on.
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat UA freshman guard Elliott Pitts drives the ball towards the basket against Rhode Island on Nov. 19 at the McKale Center.
“I believe there are seven players and a huge gap between everyone else,” Miller said. “I would be foolish not to think we’re not going to need a couple of [the reserves].”
Miller pointed out forward/center Matt Korcheck as a guy who will probably be needed in case some of the other big men get into foul trouble. He also said their lone senior Jordin Mayes can fill in because he has more experience than anyone else on the roster.
Miller said he also thinks freshman Elliott Pitts and transfer Zach Peters could see more minutes as the season progresses. Miller said the reason the two haven’t played a bigger role yet is because of a lack of practice. Both missed practice because of injuries suffered last season and during practice this season.
“I’m still trying to get back into shape,” Pitts said at the press conference.
Pitts sustained a sprained wrist prior to the Wildcats’ exhibition opener on Oct. 28. He has since returned but in limited minutes and with his wrist wrapped.
Miller also commented on Friday for the first time on the Wildcats’ highly ranked 2014 recruiting class of four players so far.
“We knew as far back as last fall that this would be a pivotal class,” Miller said.
The fifth-year Wildcats head coach said he expects to sign one more recruit, but not until the spring when Arizona has a better understanding of who will be returning. He spoke very highly of the “jewel” of the Wildcats 2014 recruiting class, Stanley Johnson, calling him “the most unique” basketball player he had ever seen.
The other players in the class are Sporting News’ 2014 NJCAA Preseason Player of the Year, guard Kadeem Allen, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, the No. 12 point guard according to Scout and ESPN and Craig Victor, Scout’s 17th best player.
Arizona’s 2014 recruiting class is ranked No. 3 by Scout, No. 4 by 247 Sports and No. 8 by ESPN.
The Wildcats will be back in action Wednesday when they play Drexel at Madison Square Garden in the semi-finals of the preseason NIT.
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella