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Arizona basketball: Mark Tollefsen settling into new role with Wildcats

We're finally seeing the senior transfer contribute more

Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Every college basketball coach wants their team to peak in March. It's how you win championships.

With that, your players should be peaking in March. Coming together as a team, and having everything flow seamlessly.

For the Arizona Wildcats, this is becoming the case with San Francisco transfer Mark Tollefsen in recent weeks, but especially now that he has one position to focus on in Allonzo Trier's absence.

"In fairness to Mark, he's had to learn our system in a crash-course," Sean Miller explained on Saturday. "But because of the injuries we've had, we have moved him all over the place. And he's played, weeks, days, games, consecutive games playing only the four, and then all of the sudden weeks and games at only three, and then a little bit of both and now he's back at the three, and that's not easy."

"I wouldn't say I'm more comfortable at either spot really," Tollefsen added. "On the perimeter at the three now, I'm trying to feed (our bigs) as much as possible. They're going to get a foul, or get a bucket. Of if they get doubled, they're going to kick it out."

With Trier out, Tollefsen is being used exclusively at the three, allowing him to get consistent reps at one position at a crucial time in the season. Recently, he's been hitting a high percentage of his threes, raising his season average from beyond the arc to 38.6%, which is the best since his freshman season at San Francisco.

"Mark is a very good three-point shooter, and is a very unselfish player," said Sean Miller. "I believe that he just really fits in well with our group. He makes the extra pass, he's unselfish. He just does his job on every play, and he's got great size."

Tollefsen also thinks it's getting used to the system and the other players that's attributed to his better numbers of late.

"I'd say as time has gone on, I'm just getting more comfortable with my guys out there and being on the floor in our system," Mark tacked on to Miller's comments.

But it's also about becoming slightly more selfish.

"Coach has said he wants me to shoot more," Tollefsen continued. "The guys have told me that too. It helped me get confidence to just release the ball, shoot the ball, and not think about it. Just play free."

"He's just telling me when I'm open from three to shoot it."

Tollefsen's innate unselfishness may have held his numbers down in non-conference season, but his impact was still felt in other ways.

"The thing Mark's done for our program since he showed up here is that he's a team player," Miller added. "He makes the extra pass. He's willing to give the ball up. At times he's almost too unselfish."

Even though his minutes, points, rebounds and assists are his lowest per game since his freshman season, his shooting percentages from everywhere including the free throw line are all up.

As he continues to get expanded minutes in the coming weeks, look for the raw numbers to come back up closer to where they had been his final two years at San Francisco. He's clearly feeling more comfortable, and is happy to fit in however he needs to to make this team go.

And he's already picked up the Arizona line of thinking when it comes to going back to play at home when he goes to the Bay Area this week:

"For me going home, it's going to be nice, but it's a business trip. We're up there to get two wins. Period."

Yep, he's a Wildcat alright.