After an offseason overshadowed by an ongoing FBI investigation and recruiting intrigue, Arizona’s 2018 men’s basketball team and head coach Sean Miller were introduced to the local and national media.
Last season ended in disappointing fashion with an opening-round NCAA Tournament loss to the University of Buffalo 89-68, and Miller acknowledged the somewhat-diminished expectations for this year’s squad, reflected by UA’s absence from both major preseason Top-25 polls.
“It’s up to us to be better than people on the outside predict us to be,” Miller said. “I think we have a unique combination of players, because not everyone that’s joined us is a freshman.”
Still, the off-season’s biggest signing was undoubtedly Brandon Williams, the freshman point guard out of Los Angeles. Miller, who said Williams would have been a McDonald’s All-American barring surgery he had on his knee his junior season, would feature prominently in the squad’s lineup.
“We were always going to play him in more than one position,” Miller said. “He can play the one, he can play the two and he can be a part of three guards.”
With last season’s entire starting lineup moving on to professional basketball of some level, Miller spoke to the versatility and “deceptive experience” of returning players and recent transfers.
As an example, Miller announced that redshirt junior transfer Chase Jeter and grad-transfer Justin Coleman would be the team’s captains, something he said was voted on by the team and staff.
Miller was particularly effusive about Jeter’s potential.
“Sometimes Chase Jeter is the forgotten man for us, because he is not a new player. He was here a year ago, but he didn’t play,” Miller said of the 6-foot-10 center.
“Remember, Chase was a high school All-American. He went to Duke.”
Another new face Miller praised for his work ethic and maturity was Ryan Luther, a grad-transfer from the University of Pittsburgh.
“When you’re around someone like Ryan, you realize he isn’t 18 years old,” Miller said. “He’s received criticism, he has been coached and he’s experienced the highs and lows of college sports, and that will be helpful.”
Luther and Jeter will help make up a reconstructed front line that looks to replace the production of NBA overall No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton and UA’s all-time winning player, Dusan Ristic.
During individual player interviews, Jeter said he would be up to the challenge. After a season of practicing against two of the best big men in UA history, Jeter seemed confident in his abilities.
“My table is set as far as playing time and opportunity,” Jeter said, before noting he “wouldn’t be following in anybody’s footsteps,” and that, like Ayton, he was a great player as well.
Even with lower national expectations, Miller said the approach inside the program would not change. Brandon Randolph was even more optimistic in his season prediction.
“My personal goals are to make it to the Final Four and show everyone this team is still great from last year to this year,” he said.
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