As Arizona Wildcats basketball fans, it has been pretty common to expect greatness from the ‘Cats. We want them to win, and win now. That was upset a few years ago, as the Lute Olson era sputtered to an end, and the coaching change over seemed to drag on and on. Thankfully, Arizona landed a top coach and recruiter in Sean Miller. Hopes are high that he will soon return ‘Zona to prominence. Of course, we all keep telling each other to temper that hope. This team is young, and coach Miller will need time to rake in the top recruits and get his system in place. That's fine, and I agree with that. I am, nevertheless, very excited moving forward this season. Let's take a look at my biggest pet peeve of the season, poor point guard play, and why I think it will be less of an issue moving forward.
While it is true that the Wildcats lost to the Washington Huskies, and in doing so missed their chance at being the #1 team in the conference, they also had a solid game against the Washington St. Cougars. In fact, I submit that this split at the Washinton schools was the best possible scenario for the young ‘Zona squad. Particularly the point guards.
While you never like to lose, it seems that is the only way to get into the heads of certain players. The Washington loss certainly did so for Lamont ‘Momo' Jones. Playing on the same court as top point guard Isaiah Thomas, all of the Arizona point guards looked horrific in comparison. After the game, Momo wasn't shy about admitting his difficulties transitioning from shooting guard to point guard. "It's a tough transition every game," Said Jones. "It's just tough being a guy that wasn't a point guard and being brought into that. It's tough night in and night out. It wasn't harder or less harder than any other game."
Anybody that has watched the Wildcats this season could tell you that Momo has been far too concerned with trying to score or take over a game, and not nearly enough with setting up shots for his teammates, passing the ball, and making the entire team better. That's the shooting guard mentality for you, but Momo must get past that, if only for this season.
In the first few minutes of the Washington St. game, it looked like more of the same. Momo was trying to dance around three or more defenders, not passing the ball, not setting anybody else up. Then, seemingly without cause, he started acting like a point guard. He was passing the ball. When he came up with a turnover, he wouldn't sprint down court, he'd wait for his team to get into position. Most importantly, he got the ball to Derrick Williams and let him do his thing.
I'm not suggesting that Momo will suddenly turn into a top point guard. I am hoping that he will continue to play like he did against WSU, and be ‘good enough' for the Wildcats to earn an NCAA berth. And who knows? If Arizona continues to improve, perhaps they could even win the conference. It certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility. And for a die-hard Arizona fan like me, that's good enough.
Bear Down, Arizona! Beat the Bruins!