During the Red-Blue Game, the Arizona men’s basketball team didn’t tally a lot of points, the score was 44-38 with 12-minute halves, but head coach Sean Miller said part of it is that the Wildcats are “very good defensively.”
One low point of the scrimmage was sophomore guard Gabe York, who was scratched from the dunk contest and limited to 70 percent, Miller said. York shot 1-for-9 from the field and mustered up two points to go along with two assists and a steal and had a team-leading three turnovers.
Junior transfer T.J. McConnell is a pass-first point guard, but Miller said he wants McConnell to take more shots.
“T.J. has to shoot when he’s open. He’s a 40 percent career three point shooter,” Miller said. “This was his first time playing in over a year so I’d like to think that as he settles in he’ll have more opportunities to shoot it. He’s one of our team’s best shooters.”
One concern for this year’s squad is long-range shooting. Last year, the team relied on its three-point shots but doesn’t appear to have as many sharp shooters.
“T.J. played well,” said junior guard Nick Johnson. “He didn’t shoot the ball very much or enough. He passed the ball well and just made plays.”
Increased balance within the projected starting lineup now produces a team that doesn’t have to depend on one player. Miller said that this year’s team can easily provide five players who can score double figures instead of rely on one person to take all the shots and score 20 points.
Sophomore forward Brandon Ashley said he worked on his outside shooting.
“It was something I didn’t have last year, and I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable shooting it a lot last year,” Ashley said. “It’s more about confidence this year, and it really comes down to me playing my game and not focusing on what everybody wants.”
Peters waits to be clear
While Kansas transfer Zach Peters has been cleared to play by the NCAA, he is still awaiting the approval of Arizona’s medical staff.
For the first time, last week, Peters started to compete in live segments during practices. Peters suffered a series of concussions in the last couple of years.
“He has made incredible progress since the day he stepped on campus for us, but it’s very important we see this process to the finish line,” Miller said. “He’s doing everything with our team — weight room, shooting, even a lot of our drills — but we’re cautious with the contact because that’s going to put him in the best position not just this year but for a long time. We hope we can get to a point where he’s with us about the entire time.”
This year marks the earliest the NCAA has allowed basketball programs to begin their practices.
In years past, practices have started three-and-a-half to four weeks before the season. This year with more time, Miller said the team is more focused on efficiency, perfecting details, and focusing on the bigger picture.
“As coaches we try to figure out what is too much or too little,” Miller said. “We can give our players a couple of extra days off, where the old model almost forced you to go two times a day. When we have more time we can be more efficient and think toward the bigger picture.”
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17