Sean Miller is at a crossroads.
With it only being December and the Arizona Wildcats having four players — including three starters — in their first year of college basketball, there is a need for substantial improvement from his team between now and season’s end.
And, normally, a team makes most of those improvements in practice. After all, the old adage says practice makes perfect.
But the person who created that phrase probably didn’t consider a Pac-12 basketball coach with only seven scholarship players at his disposal.
“It’s the most difficult thing,” Miller said about finding a balance between practice and rest. “It’s hard for us to practice. We practice against the scout team, the walk-ons a lot, we try to go full court in different ways. I probably need to shrink practice, the time that we’re out there, but no question we just have to be careful.”
Allonzo Trier (unspecified) and Dylan Smith (transfer rules) are allowed to practice with the Wildcats, despite being sidelined during games, giving them nine scholarship players when they take the floor at Richard Jefferson Gymnasium.
Miller has often said that Arizona practices better than it plays, so it’s not the quality of practice that is the problem, it is simply making sure not to overwork the seven players that can suit up for games.
“It’s still early December so we’re trying to be smart, but there’s so much of the season left that we have to work to improve, so I think we’re kind of two different types of practices,” Miller said. “Anytime we go contact, it’s going to be really short. When it’s non-contact, we’re going to try to work on things in a different way, but that’s what a coach is about, that’s what a staff is about, and we’re trying to be as smart as we possible can.”
Ultimately, Miller hopes Arizona can find a happy medium where its players are on the court long enough to learn, and still off the court enough to recover — and avoid injuries.
“Because the other thing is God forbid anybody else were to get hurt,” Miller said, “we would really be in dire straits.”
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