With the Arizona Wildcats stricken by injuries and apparent suspensions this season, Sean Miller has two rules for his short-handed team.
"You're not allowed to be a freshman and you're not allowed to foul,” he says.
So far, the Wildcats are adhering to both rules, and especially the second one.
“That’s a big deal for us. We have done a very job of not fouling,” Miller said.
But one player has been an exception — reserve big man Chance Comanche. The 6-foot-11 product from Beverly Hills, California is averaging a team-high 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes, nearly an entire foul more than Keanu Pinder (4.9), who has the second-highest foul rate on the team.
In Arizona’s last game — a 79-57 win over UC Irvine — Comanche fouled out in just 17 minutes, finishing with two points and zero rebounds.
“Tonight, Chance stuck out because he was not able to be a factor, he almost beat himself,” Miller said after that game.
Many of Comanche’s fouls are of the offensive variety, which Miller has said are killer because they not only add to Comanche’s foul total (and thus take him off the court), but they are also turnovers for the team’s offense. Plus, many of them — like the fouls that have been called on moving screens — are unforced errors.
“It’s now up to us as his coaches to be able to teach him and show him so that he doesn’t keep repeating the same mistakes,” Miller said.
Since Comanche has continually been in foul trouble, he has yet to make the patented freshman to sophomore leap that many expected him to take. The former four-star recruit is averaging just 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, and only has three blocks this season.
Comanche emerged at the end of his freshman season and it was hoped that success would translate over to his second season in Tucson, but that has not been the case.
“He is a much, much better player than he’s shown here recently,” Miller said. “I think that will come. He has a bigger role. Now that he has a bigger role, he has to learn how to be successful in that bigger role.
“Being able to play without fouling is a trademark of a disciplined defensive team, and that’s something that we work hard to be everyday. Can we be better? No doubt, but we’re also with a lot of young players out there and every time that they play a game they learn what to do, what not to do.”
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire for more Arizona basketball coverage.