When the Arizona Wildcats returned from their winter break Sunday night against Arizona State, a new little twist came to the starting lineup as well.
Instead of the usual look of T.J. McConnell, Gabe York, Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ashley, and Kaleb Tarczewski, Sean Miller went with Elliott Pitts instead of York and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson over Johnson.
"Just to change it up," Miller said of that decision. "You want to reward guys that practice hard and Elliott's never started. Rondae willingly gave up that position, and we just wanted to start off with a different group. A group that has done things the right way. That's not a slight to Gabe York or Stanley Johnson. It's not like they did anything wrong. And who we start the next game I'm not sure."
This may not be the only time Miller sends out a different looking lineup as the Wildcats head further into Pac-12 play.
"You learn the personality of your team, and this year, we may have to move the lineup around some," coach explained. "Who starts the next game we'll kind of judge that from where we go today moving forward."
"Starting is important to players, and I think when you practice really well or hard or consistent, you want to reward those guys. Again, that doesn't mean that Gabe York didn't have a good week of practice. It's just we wanted to give Elliott and Rondae that opportunity today. We started Stanley in the second half, so we'll see what we do here moving forward."
It's probably the first time Stanley Johnson hadn't started a basketball game in forever, and when asked about how Stanley felt about it, Sean Miller had this to say:
"Yeah, I don't ask his permission."
"It's not a big deal. Stanley's a part of the team. He works hard. Like I said, you can tell I have no ill-feeling towards anything he did. He played an excellent game. At halftime he might've been our best player... We need him to continue to grow. He's doing a really good job of being coachable."
With Stanley sitting down, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson got his first start in a while. But that didn't really effect his mindset going into the game.
"Coming off the bench and starting, it's all the same," the sophomore said. "You've got to come with a winner's mentality, being a leader. You gotta have that go mindset to always bring the energy no matter whether you're starting or coming off the bench."
"It happens all in practice," RHJ said of when he found out he would be starting. "You just keep working hard in practice. Coach is just fine-tuning things, and he's trying to make the best situation for our team, so I think that's what we were doing."
With this team, there's going to have to be a lot of sacrifice, and all the players know that.
"Growing up playing AAU basketball, you're used to the ball going through you, being a starting player," Hollis-Jefferson explained. "But at the next level, it's a lot of yous. We all came from being McDonald's All-Americans. Being a stat sheet guy at a high level, so it's a big difference. You gotta be able to sacrifice and adjust to the collegiate level, and we're all doing a pretty good job at it."
Even with the changes, all seven of those guys played somewhere between 20 and 27 minutes against ASU, so it's not like there's been an enormous shift. Just a change in who gets their name announced before the game.
"It's the same besides getting your name called," RHJ joked. "But who doesn't like that? I'm just here to play basketball. That's all."