Analysis: Three takeaways from the Red-Blue game
Arizona men’s basketball was back in action Friday night, with the Red-Blue game signifying the start of another season of college basketball in Tucson.
While the game is nothing more than a scrimmage and can make things tough to gauge, it gives the new players a chance to play in front of the fans at McKale Center for the first time while showcasing what some of the returning players have worked on over the summer.
A familiar face improving his game and a new one controlling the offense were just some of the things that stood out from the night. Here are three takeaways from the action.
Head Coach Sean Miller raved about the improvement of sophomore guard Devonaire Doutrive this off-season, saying at Media Day on Tuesday that he might be the team’s most improved player this off-season.
“He was almost just like a young boy finding his way from high school to college,” Miller said about Doutrive last season. “He’s grown up a lot. He’s more mature, bigger, stronger. What I like about him is he can contribute in a lot of different ways to our team. He could actually be the backup point guard. I think the next month will be interesting to watch him.”
The results showed, as Doutrive poured in a game-high with both 15 points and 7 rebounds on 6-8 shooting to lead the Blue team to victory. He also took home the dunk contest title this year after saying he “didn’t really do anything” in it last season.
“I just came out there more comfortable than this time last year,” Doutrive said. “We’ve only had two official practices, so chemistry is getting up there. We still need to work on a little bit of stuff.”
Arizona fans finally got their first look at a recruiting class they had heard about all summer, although Miller said not to jump to conclusions based off one performance.
“There are a ton of players that if you judge them off of that one night, Red-Blue, you’d be really disappointed,” Miller said.
The results were mixed. Nico Mannion finished with 9 points on 2-7 shooting with 3 assists and 3 turnovers.
“I’m gonna be his biggest fan early on,” Miller said. “It’s almost unfair the high expectations placed on him. He’s a really good player and he’s only gonna get better, but he’s not gonna do it alone. He’s seeing things for the first time and will be that much better ahead. Everybody has to take him with a grain of salt. He’s not gonna be perfect every night, but he’s gonna get there.”
Josh Green wowed the home fans during a dunk contest that saw him elevate off Mannion and Ira Lee, adding a few more highlight reel dunks during the game on the way to 7 points.
Big man Christian Koloko was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the night. The least-touted of the group coming out of high school, he finished with 8 points on 4-7 shooting.
“A lot of the time with a recruiting class they aren’t as far along as you thought they were,” Miller said. “[Koloko] is one of the rare cases where he’s a lot further along than we anticipated. We knew his best days were down the road, but he’s further along in his development than we thought he was.”
Zeke Nnaji, Keyboard Prodigy?
Freshman Zeke Nnaji didn’t score on the evening, but he got things started off long before the team took the floor, playing the national anthem on a keyboard before the game.
“I kind of joked about it in recruiting,” Nnaji said. “When time came closer to Red-Blue, I had talked about it some more. I started practicing about a month ago and had it down in about three or four days.”
Nnaji did contribute on the court as well, starting for the Red team and finishing second in rebounds on the night with 6.
The Wildcats won’t take the floor next until Nov. 1 for an exhibition game against Chico State, with the real games starting five days later against NAU.
Follow Mark Lawson on Twitter