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Arizona basketball: Allonzo Trier’s return to the starting lineup appears imminent

It’s a matter of when, not if, Trier will be back in the Wildcats’ starting lineup

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Miller is “really, really happy” with the way Allonzo Trier has made the transition into the Arizona Wildcats’ rotation.

In three games, the sophomore is averaging 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest. Meanwhile, Arizona is 3-0.

“Missing 19 games is an odd thing and you come back, especially to a team that’s 17-2, you wonder how this whole thing is going to work, but he’s embraced a number of things that we fully expected him to do as far back as October and that is, he is a much better ball-handler and passer,” Miller said. “He sees the court a lot better. He plays with his teammates much easier. The game comes easier to him.”

Trier has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 14 to 2 this season. And his 14 assists are nearly half of the 31 he posted last season in 27 games.

“He’s also rebounding the ball as a guard as well as anybody,” Miller said. “He has 15 defensive rebounds in the last two games....That’s something we’ve talked a lot about.

“And defensively he’s done a good job. His shooting, he’s taken a couple bad ones, and it’s not all his fault. A couple 3s he took he had the ball with like two seconds on the clock , but I think his percentage will start showing as well as he settles in and gets good looks from 3. But he’s playing good basketball, and I think the best has yet to come and I think as our team plays together more it’ll be more seamless moving forward.”

Trier played a team-high 33 minutes Sunday in the Wildcats’ win over the Washington Huskies, and the next step is to move him back into the starting lineup, where he appeared 21 times last season.

“We could, we’re looking at that right now,” Miller said. “In fairness to both Allonzo and our team, he’s playing starters minutes and there’s no reason to not let that happen. But somebody is going to have to get taken out of the lineup and that’s not easy to do when you’re 20-2.”

The two obvious candidates to be removed from the starting lineup are Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins. Alkins has started in every game this season, while Simmons did have success as a scoring threat off the bench earlier in the season.

“That’s all part of the sacrifice that we have to be able to make as a team,” Miller said. “And whoever that person is, it’s not like they’re getting benched or Allonzo’s so much better, it’s more along of the lines of they’re still going to be a valuable player, a matter of fact their minutes will remain the same, it’s just that the beginning of both halves they won’t be in there but whoever that person is, I don’t think we’ve decided that. That doesn’t mean they’ve done anything wrong.”

Miller said the decision to put Trier back in the starting lineup is based on his productivity and smoothing out the substitution patterns. Trier checked in within two minutes of the start of both halves Sunday against Washington.

“Substitution patterns are awkward when somebody’s playing 33 minutes and they’re not starting,” he said. “I actually think it could make our team’s chemistry better, our overall play a little more efficient if we make that change. That’s why we do it. We’re not going to do it to hurt anybody’s feelings or make Allonzo feel better, it would be the right thing for our team. And if it’s the right thing for our team, that’s what we have to do.”

Miller said he is not sure he is going to make the change, but it seems Trier’s insertion into the starting lineup is imminent at this point.

“I think we’ll work through these next couple days and then make the determination,” Miller said.

The Wildcats return to action Thursday when they face the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis. Then, Saturday, they travel to Eugene to face the No. 13 Oregon Ducks.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire