A mix of old and new on display in Spain for men's basketball
Arizona's Allonzo Trier passes during the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals against Colorado in March. Trier led the Wildcats in scoring during their trip to Spain this month.
The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team canceled game three of their Spanish tour due to safety concerns resulting from last Thursday’s tragedy in Barcelona when a van drove through Las Ramblas plowing pedestrians, killing 14 people and injuring more than 100 others.
Sports is considered a getaway from the issues of real life, but this was unavoidable and the Wildcats decided it would be best to head back home.
Arizona played two games during their trip to Spain and it gave a glimpse as to what could be in store for the upcoming season. Individually, The Wildcats had a lot to offer while showing off a significantly faster-paced offense within the framework of the team.
Here is a breakdown of each player and what it could mean to have them on the team this year.
PJC pushed the tempo every chance he got, putting his teammates in positions to score time and time again while taking only three shots in the two games. He was pesky on defense, getting his hands in the passing lanes and creating five turnovers in total, each leading to easy transition points.
Alkins sat out the second contest versus the Mataro All-Stars due to a shoulder injury. It was precautionary and he is expected to be at full strength come season time.
In his lone appearance against Combinado Valenciano, Alkins showed strength going to the basket, a confident mid-range jumper and a much slimmer, but cut physique. Alkins had 14 points and four rebounds in the game and his speed appeared to have increased along with his quickness, which should bode well for his NBA draft prospects next year.
The much forgotten transfer from UNC-Asheville was solid. He was consistent from three and wasn’t glaringly weak at any one skill. Smith averaged 11 points per game including going four for eight from downtown. Though he won’t see minutes at point guard, his ability to play the off guard spot could be key when the Wildcats face those pesky zones throughout the season.
The most impressive player for Arizona in Spain, Randolph was deadly from outside, quick in getting to the hole and solid defensively. Randolph had a game high 21 points against Valenciano, and was a nice compliment to Allonzo Trier on the opposite side of the floor.
Randolph started for Alkins against Mataro in game two due to Alkins’ injury. That may tell you all you need to know about head coach Sean Miller’s confidence in the freshman. He averaged 15 points a game during the trip, second most on the team.
Though he didn’t see a ton of minutes on the floor, Lee was physical and had surprising length on a number of left-handed dunks within the offense. Before the Wildcats took off for Spain, Alkins said Lee would shock some people this year because many don’t know of what he is capable. He provided some promise of that during the two game set. Lee averaged six points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Ayton is the number one prospect in the country. It is debatable, however, due to the recent commitment of the newly reclassified Marvin Bagley at Duke. Ayton is as competitive as they come according to teammates, and in both games in Spain he was unstoppable. That is, when he wanted to be. Ayton was hesitant on several occasions and didn’t seem like he knew how dominant he could be until the end of the second game against Mataro.
Despite that, Ayton still nearly averaged a double-double by grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game to go along with 14 points per contest. Against Mataro, Ayton had 18 points and 10 boards.
Ristic was smooth and confident, you know what you will get from the Serbian. Combined with Ayton, Ristic provides size and efficient rebounding, averaging 9.5 rebounds as well. The two combining for 19 rebounds a game, as they did in Spain, would be huge for the Wildcats.
The backup point guard from Corona Del Sol showed nice vision on the court and did a solid job of continuing the pace for Arizona in the absence of PJC. Barcello had eight points and three assists in each game, so consistency shouldn’t be a factor.
Akot probably had the toughest time of all the Wildcats. He appeared tentative and was also sidelined with a slight knee strain in game two. He should be ready for the season, but if he wants any playing time, his ball security and defense will need to improve. Especially if he is considered to play minutes at the point.
Pinder rebounded nicely and played solid low post defense. He didn’t provide much on the offensive end, but he won’t need to on this year’s team.
Trier was quicker with his release on jump shots, seeming more physical and aggressive going to the basket. He had some nice passes that set teammates up for easy buckets. Against Mataro, Trier dished out 8 assists to go along with 21 points. If he does that during the season, you’d be hard pressed to not think of the Wildcats as a title contender.
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