In recent years, freshmen basketball players have arrived at the University of Arizona during the second summer session of classes where they enroll in their first college classes and play pick-up ball with the veterans.
That gave them opportunities to get a feel for the rigors of college academics but without full-on workouts. NCAA regulations kept the players from going through any workouts with their coaches. In itself, having a Division I coach on their tails might be the most dramatic difference in the high-school-to-college leap save for, maybe, class.
A rule change leading into this summer makes that restriction a thing of the past, writes ESPN's Myron Medcalf.
This summer, coaches will be afforded limited time to interact with players per new NCAA rules. For up to two hours per day -- and up to eight hours per week -- coaches can work with their players, including incoming freshmen, in varying capacities. The January approval of the new rules served as an extra gift for the holidays among coaches who've fought for the extra access in recent years.
For the Arizona Wildcats and a four-man freshman class that Sean Miller is expected to heavily lean upon, the rule change couldn't have come at a better time.
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Eight players of the 12-man roster have been on Arizona's campus since the beginning of June, according to Miller's Twitter, and with the new rule changes, they'll get a good feel for the level of practice at an elite basketball school even earlier that before.
More importantly, it gives a class that includes big men Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski the weight room workouts that will give them a good shot at being physically ready come the first game.
Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley survived their first strength and conditioning workout at Arizona! twitter.com/UACoachMiller/…— Sean Miller (@UACoachMiller) June 8, 2012
It was no secret that the lack of an inside presence could've swung the Wildcats' fortunes a bit in 2011-12. With 7-footer Tarczewski and power forward Grant Jerrett on the slim side of things even during their high school All-Star game tours, the 2012-13 season will be heavily reliant on their production to come without a trial period of getting pushed around by upperclassmen.
"When you're a freshman, now you get to come in and take a couple of classes and adjust when there's not 40,000 [students on campus] or when there's not all the pressure of classroom work, athletic work and then the social activity that goes on with kids their first year away from home," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told ESPN. "I think it benefits [the student-athletes]. I think it's going to make our freshmen a lot more under control and not so overwhelmed."
Heck, even some of the older guys will benefit with Miller keeping his eye on their workouts and guiding them through drills.
Miller said during the Pac-12 tournament that Angelo Chol was a rare case of a player gaining weight in the midst of an entire basketball season. Considering his flashes of potential toward the end of last season, his contributions this upcoming season could be 10-fold should he put some muscle on his long frame this offseason.
For once, we're seeing the NCAA make a rule change that does their student athletes -- those they so adamantly say they support -- actual good.
Allowing us to work our players out in the summer while they are on campus is one of the best NCAA rules ever passed. Everybody benefits!— Sean Miller (@UACoachMiller) June 8, 2012