Editor's note: This column was written before the report released of Jemarl Baker Jr. expecting to transfer following the spring semester. We will update this story with more information as it arrives.
Unlike last season where we saw Arizona men’s basketball’s three best players leave after only one season to go and enter the NBA, this year it seems as if the majority of the 2020-21 team will be back.
So far, seniors Ira Lee and Terrell Brown Jr. have announced =they are leaving the team and entering the transfer portal as they both have one year of eligibility left in their college careers.
It was expected that Lee and Brown wouldn’t return to the team next season as Miller has three talented freshmen coming in the upcoming season, and there could still be another recruit/transfer added to next season's roster in the coming months.
So, without Lee and Brown Jr., let’s take a look at the early roster for next season and how they can all fit together on the court.
- Jr. | Christian Koloko | C
- So. | Azuolas Tubelis | F
- R-Jr. | Jordan Brown | F
- So. | Daniel Batcho | F
- So. | Tibet Gorener | F
- So. | Tautvilas Tubelis | F
- Jr. | Jordan Mains | F
- So. | Bennedict Mathurin | G-F
- R-Sr. | Jemarl Baker Jr. | G
- Sr. | James Akinjo | G
- So. | Dalen Terry | G
- So. | Kerr Kriisa | G
- So. | Grant Weitman | G
- Fr. | Shane Nowell | G
- Fr. | Shane Dezonie | G
- Fr. | K.J. Simpson | G
That leaves the team with six true guards, six forwards/centers and Mathurin, who will play all over the court. The team only really has two true point guards in Kriisa and Akinjo, but the real problem for playing time will come at the shooting guard/wing position as Miller just has too many players who will look to get minutes at those spots next season.
Two (Terry and Baker Jr.) of those remaining six guards are pretty much guaranteed to get regular minutes if everything goes right. The three incoming freshmen are left, it seems, to fight it out for the most likely remaining one spot. Miller could go with a lengthier bench and for the regular season play 10 guys and see who earns themselves playoff minutes at the end of the year.
The maximum number of scholarships that a team is allowed to have is 13, and the Wildcats are already at that number for next season. So, unless someone else from last year’s team unexpectedly transfers or declares for the NBA Draft, it looks like this will be the roster heading into the 2021-22 season. The starting lineup will most likely look similar to last season, as Miller will play three guards/wing players and two of the big men.
My starting lineup prediction: Arizona could play Tubelis at the center spot, Mathurin starts guarding power forwards on defense and comes out with a lineup like this.
- G: James Akinjo
- G: Kerr Kriisa
- G: Jemarl Baker
- F: Bennedict Mathurin
- C: Azuolas Tubelis
If Miller opts for a different lineup, Kriisa or Baker would be the odd one out as they would have to move to the bench. In that scenario, Koloko would start at center and Tubelis would move back to power forward. Heading into the next season, expectations are high after seeing a ton of potential from the Wildcat’s young guys, but it is on Miller now to find a system that works for everyone.
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