MBB preview: After losing three players to the NBA, the road to another Pac-12 title could be tough

img-8398
Kohichiro Yamada | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona men's basketball team player Kerr Kriisa (25) plays defense on Sept. 30 in McKale Center. The Blue team would win 49-45 over the Red team.

Plenty of new faces will be stepping onto the hardwood for University of Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd this November in McKale Center. Lloyd is coming off a 33-win season and was named the Associated Press Men’s Coach of the Year last spring. 

However, despite the return of Lloyd, Arizona could not retain last year’s Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin. The current Indiana Pacer led the Wildcats in scoring last season at 17.7 points per game. The program also witnessed the departures of Dalen Terry, another lottery pick of last year’s NBA draft, and center Christian Koloko, who got selected by the Toronto Raptors early in the second round. 

No doubt Lloyd lost most of his scoring production from last season; nonetheless, he brought in a new house. Continuing a similar formula as he did up in Spokane, Washington, for Gonzaga University, Lloyd went networking overseas trying to find the next group of Wildcats. Lloyd landed 6-foot-9 wing Filip Borovicanin and 7-foot center Henri Veesaar. 

Before arriving in Tucson, Borovicanin played for KK Beko, a professional basketball club in his hometown of Belgrade, Serbia. The four-star wing averaged 20 points and nine rebounds per game. Borivcanin was named MVP of the European Basketball League at age 16, averaging just under 35 points a contest. 

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT

Borovicanin is at his best slashing to the rim, and he can score from multiple spots on the floor. Given his upside, the coaching staff will be able to use him in many unique ways along the wing. 

Henri Veesaar joins Kerr Kriisa as the second Wildcat to bring Estonian roots to Tucson. At 7-feet tall, Veesaar can play at both the power forward and center positions. Active and able to run the floor, Veesaar is the ideal big man for Lloyd, given the pace of play he favors. 

However, there are some concerns with Veesaar only weighing 200 pounds at 7-feet tall. For this season, the coaching staff prioritizes the development of Veesaar regardless of his production on the court. Veesaar will be working behind Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis. 

The second pair of newcomers are freshmen from Arizona. Kylan Boswell and Dylan Anderson went to high schools about 20 minutes from each other. 

Boswell committed to the Wildcats in February, but decided to reclassify this past summer, joining the team this year rather than in the fall of 2023. Before the reclassification, according to the ESPN databases, Boswell was ranked No. 18 in his class, one of the country’s most talented guards. 

Boswell played high school basketball at a couple of schools in California before moving to the desert to play at AZ Compass Prep School, a public charter school located in Chandler, Arizona. that is well known for the athletic development of its players. 

Anderson, the 7-foot center from the nearby city of Gilbert, Arizona, attended Perry High School. He had many accomplishments at the high school level, including Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Arizona during his junior and senior years. Anderson also led the Perry Pumas to the 6A State Championship his senior year. The current freshman has the opportunity to develop over the next few years within the program and be the next frontcourt star of Arizona basketball. 

Rounding out the newcomers, Lloyd and the staff went to the transfer portal to add some veteran experience to a relatively young group. Courtney Ramey and Cedric Henderson Jr. departed their respective programs to come play for the Wildcats. 

Many college basketball fanatics in Tucson smiled when the fifth-year senior decided to join the Arizona community this summer. Before Arizona, Ramey had a four-year stint at the University of Texas in Austin. The recruiting pitch was difficult for Ramey to accept, but Ramey admired Lloyd’s desire to help critique his game in areas Lloyd felt were necessary. 

Ultimately, this led Ramey to Arizona. He had plenty of success in Austin, averaging around 10 points per game in all four seasons while being a reliable option on the defensive end. Ramey is a born-ready leader and should be a day one starter next to Kriisa in the backcourt. 

Henderson, from Memphis, Tennessee, transferred to Arizona after playing at Campbell University for three seasons. The 6-foot-6 guard proved to be an efficient scorer for the Fighting Camels, shooting just under 50% from the field last season. For Henderson, the main adjustment will be adapting to the style of play in the Pac-12. He spent his first three seasons playing within the Big South conference. 

This team’s success will depend on how each player can complement each other. Fans throughout the season could see 11 players on the court every night. Furthermore, this year’s roster probably will not see anybody depart early for the NBA. 

In addition, the Wildcats don’t have a go-to guy like Mathurin this season. But, this does not mean Lloyd’s group cannot reappear as Pac-12 Champions. The chemistry issues will just take more time to resolve than usual. There's a good chance that come March, UCLA and Oregon will battle it out with the Wildcats to be the 2023 Pac-12 Champions.


Follow Aidan Alperstein on Twitter



Share this article