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Arizona basketball: Tyler Trillo emerges as the Wildcats’ eighth man

The walk-on played 13 minutes and had two assists in Arizona’s win over UC Irvine

California-Irvine v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After Parker Jackson-Cartwright sprained his ankle last Wednesday against Texas Southern — the latest event in a string of injuries for the Arizona Wildcats — Sean Miller was asked who the team’s eighth man was.

He had an honest answer.

“I don’t know,” Miller said flatly.

Just six days later, he’s found an answer — Tyler Trillo.

The 5-foot-11 guard from Connecticut played 13 minutes in Arizona’s 79-57 win over UC Irvine and picked up two assists. The redshirt sophomore missed his only shot attempt — an open corner 3 — but also had a zero in the turnover column.

“He did a really good job,” Miller said of Trillo after the game. “He takes care of the ball. Tonight he had zero turnovers in 13 minutes...he knows his role and he is out there for the right reasons.”

The Wildcats do not need much from a walk-on like Trillo, a Division III transfer who was added to the roster shortly before the season began. As Miller said last month, the walk-ons aren’t asked to make offensive plays.

However, with the team currently limited to seven available scholarship players, the walk-ons have to be ready to contribute if foul trouble hits or somebody simply needs a rest.

“We’ve had a lot of talks with (the walk-ons) to make sure that they’re locked in, that when they’re called upon, this is what you want to do, and this is what you want to stay away from,” Miller said.

Given how Trillo approached the game and Miller’s praise afterward, it is clear what those dos and don’ts are.

On offense, the dos are to move the ball, make the right play and, if necessary, take an open shot — but don’t try to do too much.

Defensively, the dos are limit mental mistakes, get back in transition, and, well, play hard.

“You want to be invisible at the beginning when you’re given that opportunity, almost like nobody knows you’re out there,” Miller said. “That’s a good thing and then all of a sudden you start to learn how to make some good plays, but these guys know their role.”

Trillo certainly did Tuesday and he will likely have a chance to replicate that in the future.

With Allonzo Trier’s status still up in the air and Jackson-Cartwright out for eight weeks, the Wildcats’ depth issues are not going away anytime soon.

Ideally, they can get through games using only their seven scholarship players, and often times they will. Against Gonzaga, for instance, Arizona was able to stick to its seven-man rotation.

But if the circumstances call for it, and Miller has to add an eighth man to the mix, it will be Trillo’s number that is called.

And all he has to do is keep things “flowing”.

“[Trillo] had a good game,” said Lauri Markkanen, who was a beneficiary of one of Trillo’s assists. “We have seven scholarship guys now and we need everyone to keep the flow of the game going when they check in.”

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire for more Arizona basketball coverage.