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Arizona basketball: Sean Miller compares Kobi Simmons to Nick Johnson

Miller compared their defensive upside and offensive versatility

High School Basketball: McDonald's All-American Portraits Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not everyday that one gets compared to a former All-American, but it happened to Kobi Simmons on Monday, as Sean Miller likened Simmons to former Wildcat great Nick Johnson.

“They’re both incredible athletes,” Miller said. “Nick became a great defender and Kobi has that same upside, and offensively they can do a lot of different things.”

Like Johnson, Simmons has the ability to both catch and throw an alley-oop.

“Very few guys can catch one and throw one, but that’s who he is,” Miller said of Simmons. “And I think his shot, he’s got a beautiful looking shot. It’ll even out as the year goes on as he learns how to take a good one and how to get set.”

Simmons scored five points in Arizona’s Red-Blue exhibition on Oct. 14, shooting 1-of-6 from the field and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. The freshman also had a pair of turnovers and assists.

It was a rather shaky performance for Simmons, but Miller attributed that to him being asked to learn two positions at once.

"He’s not going to look as good playing in this game as he otherwise would have if I gave him one thing to learn,” Miller said after the Red-Blue game. “He has a lot going on but I think for his career and also the depth of our team, we’re trying to move him back and forth right now."

Miller has somewhat changed his course since then, as he said Monday that Simmons is playing off the ball more often now.

“We’re still teaching him the point guard [position], but [we’re] trying to get him more comfortable at something here initially,” Miller said.

Still, Miller believes it’s important for Simmons to learn to play both guard spots.

“We’ve played him at two positions...both the two and the one. I think I find sometimes that when you try to do that, big picture that really helps the development of him as a player,” Miller said. “Short-term it can kind of make things frustrating because he’s really forced to learn a lot.”

Miller said Monday that Simmons’ last four days of practice have been his best since arriving at Arizona.

“I’m really pleased because he was slow and steady for a while, but he’s really jumped up the last four days, which is very good for us,” Miller said.

Miller mentioned he hadn’t decided what his starting lineup will be in the Wildcats’ exhibition against the College of Idaho on Tuesday, but barring any surprises, Simmons is expected to be a backup at both guard spots.

“He’ll play at both the one and the two,” Miller said. “He’s very, very talented, and very bright.”

Tipoff against the College of Idaho is set for 7:30 p.m. in McKale Center.


Follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire