This year's Arizona Wildcats are going to be interesting for many reasons. But I think at the top of that list of reasons is the unknown factor. Plenty of guys are going to be getting significant minutes that none of us have seen in McKale with the exception of the Red-Blue Game.
Like Kadeem Allen, Ryan Anderson was in Tucson last year, but did not play thanks to the transfer rule.
"Me and Ryan are closer because we know what it's like to have to sit and watch the games be played," Allen told me. "We have a great bond, and everyone has a great bond, but with him it's just different because we played with each other for a whole year."
"Me and Kadeem are real close," Anderson added. "Any time you're doing something like that, and you're away from something you truly love to do, it's tough. But when you have someone going through it with you, it makes it a little bit better."
"I just learned so much about how to win."
Although, thanks to a shoulder injury, he may not have played either way. Rehabbing the shoulder injury was one of the reasons Anderson chose to come to Arizona after deciding to transfer from Boston College.
"It was tough, but once I got here, when you see Tucson, Arizona pop up on your phone, it brings a certain level of tradition and history with it, and they automatically jump towards one of the top schools on your list," the senior explained. "And when I visited here, I just wanted to find out where I fit in, is there a place for me? How am I going to rehab my shoulder? That was a big thing for me, because I couldn't play without a healthy shoulder. So they laid out the perfect rehab plan for me, they laid out how they would use me this year, and just the environment. We have a lot of California guys, and that's where I'm from too. Gabe (York) I've known since 9th or 10th grade in high school."
"I couldn't find a reason not to come here."
But he's recovered from that shoulder issue and has become the strongest player in Arizona history.
"Ryan Anderson benched 185 (pounds) 21 times, and that's the most in our program's history," Sean Miller said a couple of weeks ago.
"I'm pretty proud of it, but at the same time, I had a whole year off and I'm one of the older guys around here so I should be one of the stronger guys too," Anderson explained. "I think my high school coach put it best. He said 'You had nothing else to do last year except lift' so I don't put too much into (the record), but at least I know my name will be up there for a while."
"It's been crazy to see how much my body has changed in a year. We go as hard as we can every day, and we do it smart."
"He did a great job in the weight room," Kaleb Tarczewski added. "He had that whole year. Last year around this time, he was battling back from a shoulder injury, and he really bought in last year. He bought into everything around here, and he's excelled through his hard work."
I was caught a bit off guard when ESPN ranked Anderson as the 27th-best player in the country. This could mean that Anderson will actually be the best player on the team.
"He brings a little different style of play to our team," Tarczewski said about his new teammate (Zeus was 72nd in that ESPN ranking by the way). "He's a physical guy who likes to rebound. Gets in there, gets a little dirty, which is good. And also he can step out and take a little jump shot, and it's going to be a good dynamic. This team is just really unselfish and loves to be out there and playing team basketball. It's going to be fun."
We saw a taste of that in the Red-Blue Game, as Anderson, along with another senior transfer Mark Tollefsen, kind of stole the show a little bit.
"I think we complement each other really well," Anderson said after the R-B Game. "It's going to be tough to beat us."
Anderson also earned the gold jersey in practice several weeks in a row, which is awarded to the player on the winning team that puts up the best stats.
"The gold jersey is an honor. It's something I'm very proud of, and just how much has changed in the last year for me. It's just great to see me improving, and the biggest thing I love about the gold jersey is they count your team wins. So, at the end of the day, I'm just happy that my team has been winning in practice."
"In the seven years we've been here, that hasn't happened more than a handful of times," Miller said. "It's difficult to do that three-consecutive weeks."
There's a chance Arizona will draw Boston College in the DirecTV Wooden Legacy Championship game the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and Anderson certainly hopes that comes to fruition.
"If we do, we gotta run a play for me," Anderson joked. "I'm just happy to see a lot of my old friends there, a lot of my old teammates will be there. One of my best friends from there transferred to Boise State, Lonnie Jackson, and we play them this year too."
"When you've been in college as long as I have, you've got friends all over the place, so it's cool just to reunite with some of those guys, but I'd love to play (Boston College)."
Being in college this long also brings a lot of fans, and Anderson will likely gain a lot of new fans this year as he showcases his skills in his lone year playing for Arizona.