Heading into the 2014-15 season, the one freshman on the Arizona Wildcats getting all the attention is Stanley Johnson, and rightfully so. Johnson showed during the exhibition game against Cal Poly Pomona that he will be a part of the main six-man rotation on this team.
But there's one freshman who seems to be making quite the impression on Sean Miller in these early season practices. That guy is Dusan Ristic.
"Dusan Ristic is a guy that works hard every day," Miller said last week. "His offense is actually ahead of his defense, which for a low-post player and somebody his size, it's exciting to think about where he'll be down the road."
His offensive game shouldn't come as a surprise, as Fran Fraschilla had high praise for him this summer. But Miller sees a lot of potential in him, and possibly seeing that sooner rather than later.
"He has a knack and a way of being able to score and a fundamental set of skills that normally you don't see from somebody his size and age come to college with," Miller continued. "Where he's behind is on defense, but playing against Kaleb (Tarczewski) every day, and playing with the effort that he has every day, I really believe he'll get better. Where he's at in early November, he could be a far cry from there in early December just with constant, continual work."
"I'm impressed with Dusan and love his attitude. He listens. He works hard. He stays after practice. He loves the game and like I said, with his size on offense, I think he has a really high starting point."
Ristic's attitude and work ethic is also impressing his teammates, including senior Matt Korcheck.
"I would start off by saying he's a wonderful kid off the court," Korcheck stated. "He's a very easy person to get along with. A very easy person to train with. And I think that leads into stepping on the court with him. He's a hard-worker. He wants to learn and wants to be here. And I can relate to that a lot. He's working very hard and I think he's made tremendous strides since he's been here, and I think he's going to be a very successful basketball player as he continues to grow and learn."
During the exhibition game, Ristic played ten minutes, scored four points and got a rebound. Two of those four points came off a little hook shot / finger roll play from about five feet.
His play in the game further validated Miller's praise of him.
"I thought Dusan did a good job tonight," coach said after the game. "You could see he has a really nice touch, good hands. He'll get better and better on defense as time moves on. Every day that he practices, and every time he gets game experience, he'll start to do a better job in that area. But there's no substitute for how long he is. And he can catch the basketball and score it."
"I think a lot of teams would love to have a guy like him off the bench. I was pleased with him."
Right now, it feels like Dusan Ristic is sort of the 7th guy, looking to make his way into the main rotation.
"Our seven through ten guys are important, and if we continue to develop them, we'll become a better team," Miller added.
If Ristic is able to develop defensively as quickly as coach seems to think he can, all of the sudden, Arizona's looking at having two seven-footers that can hold down the middle between him and Kaleb Tarczewski. That's a scary thought considering how good the Wildcats are on defense in general.