A bunch of things were different and eye-catching about the Arizona Wildcats’ 11-point victory over the Washington Huskies on Sunday.
One of those things was the playing time, or lack thereof, for junior college transfer Keanu Pinder.
For the first time all year, Pinder did not see the floor. It also happened to be just the third game of the season that the Wildcats had nine available scholarship players.
“As I said to Keanu, it doesn’t mean he’s never going to play,” head coach Sean Miller said after that game. “We’re trying to figure out what’s the best for Arizona, and with that, we learned a little more today than after the last game.”
Recently, Pinder has seen his minutes drop significantly. He has failed to reach double-digits in that category in each of the last five games, and has only played more than 11 minutes once in the Pac-12 schedule, Stanford being the exception.
In non-conference play, he only got less than 15 minutes of action three times.
But Pinder isn’t down, at least according to his most seasoned teammate.
“He was normal,” Kadeem Allen said about Pinder’s mentality. “With games like that, it’s not personal with coach when he does that. I’ve been in that situation before last year playing like 15 minutes a game and things like that, but it’s just some games where it’s different.”
“They were outrebounding us — 18 offensive rebounds — just certain things like that, where we just need bigger people at the four and five, and he’s kinda undersized, but I don’t think anything was really wrong with him after that.”
Allen has talked to Pinder and others about not letting those lack of minutes impact you. However, Kadeem’s only major drop-off in minutes last year came after he was hit with a severe virus before the Washington trip, and that lower minute load carried through the next two weeks.
“Some things you still have to learn,” Allen explained. “I feel with (Pinder) sitting out, maybe it’ll give him a chip on his shoulder to go hard and do the extra small things that coach really wants other players to do, and he can fill in and do those things. I feel that can help him a lot.”
Pinder’s absence from the lineup wasn’t really something that was discussed before the game either. It just kind of happened.
“With coach, it’s just going off of how you’re performing,” continued Allen. “It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re not playing well and helping the team, he’s going to sit you. We have enough talent on this team where anyone can get on the court and make a difference, so it really doesn’t matter who you are.”
Another thing that’s played into it is Chance Comanche showing marked improvement in recent weeks and not being a liability on the floor anymore.
Pinder always appeared to be at the bottom of the barrel among scholarship players due to his lack of offensive prowess. His defense is what allowed him to play decent minutes early on, but with Allonzo Trier back and more players contributing at both ends, he’s kind of been cast aside a little bit.
Surely there will be a time when Arizona needs a big defensive play and Pinder is the one that needs to make it. That’s just kind of how basketball goes. Hopefully he’ll be able to step up when his name is called.