Hoops: Depth chart or scatter plot?
Thirteen isn't necessarily the unlucky number for the Arizona men's basketball team, but it surely symbolizes its most pressing issue.
Looking towards their Nov. 15 opening game against NAU, head coach Sean Miller has a month to break down and organize his depth chart, and 13 players on the team's 15-man roster are freshmen or sophomores.
Nine of those 13 players will vie for a significant role on the team.
""If you'd say to me, ‘Coach, can you tell me who you think is going to start this season?'"" Miller said, ""I really couldn't tell you who the top nine players are going to be on our program. That's very much in doubt.""
Aside from senior point guard Nic Wise, the Wildcats have no surefire idea of who will play or how deep of a bench they will roll out against NAU.
""It's really a brand new, fresh canvas, other than Nic Wise,"" Miller said.
Although young, Miller has an array of versatility on his painter's palette to work with. It's just a matter of which colors to use, how to blend them together and create something that works.
That will be Miller's task to handle. During Wednesday's basketball media day, he admitted that the next few critical weeks will help iron out some of the question marks.
And while he didn't want to create false expectations – he repeatedly contrasted the inexperience of this year's team to his veteran Elite Eight and Sweet 16 squads at Xavier University – Miller also said this Arizona team is beaming with talent. That talent, he said, could very well develop into a dangerous team by the end of the year.
""We have a lot of ground to cover in the months of October, November…perhaps more than any team in our conference,"" he said. ""But I do think we have a lot of young players that will get better. At the end of the year, if things line up right, it wouldn't surprise me at all if we weren't a good team, a very dangerous team.""
Seemingly, the most important piece of this season's puzzle will be freshman Lamont ‘Momo' Jones out of Harlem, N.Y.
Jones, a 5-foot-11, strong-bodied guard, can play both the point and the shooting guard position. He would possibly play alongside Wise at the shooting guard spot as well, creating a quick, under-six-foot-tall backcourt.
His development as a point guard, though, is imperative to spell Wise, and if he finds success there, would give the Wildcats that much more depth and versatility.
""This is why I made a decision to come here is to be considered as one of those great point guards to come out of Arizona,"" Jones said. ""That's a big dream of mine.""
Jones is not the only player that will likely be asked to play multiple positions. Sophomores Kyle Fogg, Garland Judkins and Brendon Lavender can also play the point and shooting guard positions. Likewise, freshmen wings Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom may see time at the shooting guard or small forward spots.
Then there are the complications with the post rotation.
Theoretically, Miller could go big by starting freshman Kyryl Natyazhko at center and junior Jamelle Horne at power forward. Against teams without dominant big men, Horne or athletic 6-foot-7 frosh Derrick Williams play alongside Hill.
With the post depth lacking, the versatility of the young roster gives Miller more options down the road.
""(We have) a ton of talent, a ton of versatility,"" Horne said. ""You know, we got Momo (Jones) and…D-Will (Williams) and then we got the big Ukraine Train (Natyazhko). We've got a lot of versatility at every position.""
How that will translate come Nov. 15 is anybody's guess, including Miller's at this point. When asked if he was ready to play a game, the coach was brutally honest.
""I'm not anxious at all to see a game,"" Miller joked. ""As a matter of fact, I don't want to see a game for some time.""