Fans scrolling through the Arizona men’s basketball roster this season will notice seven new faces to a program that looks to get back to their normal standard of basketball after the struggles of last year.
While his face might not stand out at first, fans might do a double take when they see a certain last name on the back of a Wildcat jersey again.
The brother of former UA guard Jacob Hazzard, Max Hazzard, committed to Arizona as a graduate transfer from UC Irvine back in April, fresh off a trip to the NCAA Tournament in which he scored 26 points in two games, including 19 in a first round victory over Kansas State.
Jacob was a walk-on during his four-year career at the UA, appearing in two Elite Eight’s and four NCAA Tournaments during his time with the program. That level of success is something Max hopes to be able to share in this season.
“I was a little familiar with the system here from when my brother was here,” Hazzard said. “That was obviously a time when they were really, really good. We have goals to be as good as they were. The coaches have done a really good job of helping me pick up the offense early on.”
For Hazzard, the decision to come to Arizona was about more than the basketball side of things. It was also about being wanted.
“Arizona was the first school to start recruiting me when I entered the transfer portal,” he said. “Obviously, the opportunity to play a big role and go to a school that has a big basketball tradition were things I looked at too, but [Coach] Miller was the first coach, not just head coach, to reach out to me. It felt like I was really wanted here and could have a chance to help them win.”
Hazzard fills a void the Wildcats desperately needed to address with his shooting. Last season saw him make 93 three-pointers and he has made 170 over his three-year career. By comparison, no Wildcat made more than 46 last season.
While the 3-point line on the men’s side will be extending back a little over a foot this season to match the international line, Hazzard says the change is actually more of an adjustment for the other side of the ball.
“I wouldn’t have even really noticed it had it not been for the women’s one,” Hazzard said. “It’s definitely further, but I think it’s actually more of an adjustment for the defense. In terms of shooting, I don’t think it's that big of a deal until you start getting in your head about it, but I also haven’t played any games yet, so I don’t want to speak too soon."
With sophomore Brandon Williams set to miss the entire season with a lingering knee issue, Hazzard potentially looks to slide into the backcourt next to freshman Nico Mannion. With four years experience at the collegiate level, the Wildcats will count on his leadership for a team that returns just one starter from last season in big man Chase Jeter.
“It’s a little different for me because I’m learning just like they are,” Hazzard said. “I have college experience, but in terms of learning the Arizona way, we’re all sort of in this together. I know what it’s like to have up and down practices and not to play well. I try to stay in their ear and let them know it’s called a season for a reason. It’s truly a marathon and to a sprint. But they’re a million times better than I was as a freshman.”
Follow Mark Lawson on Twitter