The Arizona Wildcats have been severely short-handed nearly the entire season, and there is a unique way to solve that problem: add a player midseason that can play right away.
Players like that are hard to come by, but the Wildcats have been linked to one of them in Hamidou Diallo, a 2017 five-star recruit who has been cleared by the NCAA to play in the spring semester of this season.
Arizona head coach Sean Miller has said he is not a huge fan of adding a player during the season — presumably because of the adjustment period the player would need — but he didn’t quite rule it out when asked about it on Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t say never, it just has to be a special situation,” Miller said. “It has to be the right situation. If you add somebody and they’re not able to play that makes a lot more sense because…if you judge us we’ve played 13 non-conference games, we’ve practiced 50 times. We’ve gone through a Christmas, now have practiced three or four times getting ready for our conference season. I think just to add somebody for the first time who could play, that’s really hard on the current team. But to add somebody at the break who a year from now could be eligible, I think you have to look at each situation separately.”
If there ever is such a thing as a special situation, this is probably it. Arizona is without four scholarship players in Ray Smith (torn ACL), Talbott Denny (torn ACL), Parker Jackson-Cartwright (high ankle sprain), and Allonzo Trier (unspecified).
Jackson-Cartwright’s return is inevitable, but Smith and Denny are out for the season and Trier’s status continues to be unknown.
A midseason addition for the Wildcats could possibly mean the difference between having nine scholarship players instead of eight down the stretch. Not to mention that, in Diallo’s case, he’s more than a depth piece. He’s the No. 1 shooting guard in the 2017 recruiting class and could make a major impact on the court once he gets up to speed with his new team.
Diallo wouldn’t be the first to do that this season, either. Auburn center Austin Wiley is averaging 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds since joining the Tigers in mid-December.
It does seem like Arizona is a longshot to land Diallo, though, looking at 247Sports’ Crystal Ball, but the prospect of adding a scholarship player — one that can play immediately — to the team’s short bench certainly is intriguing.
“I wouldn’t know, we’ve never really done it,” Miller said of adding an eligible player midseason. “I’m sure, like everything, it’s all about speed now and how quickly you can kind of get in the system, how quickly you can get into the next phase of a professional career, so I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. That process starts around ninth or tenth grade. It doesn’t begin as a freshman in college, so that way of thinking, if you’re one of the elites — whether a parent, high school coach, travel team — I think that way of thinking is just part of college basketball right now.
“So if that happens, it happens.”
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