When Rawle Alkins broke his foot in late September, an eight-to-12 week timetable was given for his return to the court.
That estimate meant he would come back sometime between late November and late December.
Some even thought he could be back for Battle 4 Atlantis which starts Nov. 22, but that seems unlikely now.
Head coach Sean Miller said after the Red-Blue Game Friday that he expects Alkins to return “sometime in December.”
Brandon Randolph, who had an outstanding performance in the Red-Blue Game, looks like the frontrunner to start in Alkins’ place at small forward, though Emmanuel Akot and his passing and defensive versatility is an option, too.
“They’re very different players,” Miller said of the pair of freshmen. “Emmanuel is blessed with unbelievable court vision. He’s kind of like a point guard, even when he’s not the actual point guard out there. Tremendous defensive player. Great size.
“Brandon is every explosive on the offensive end, and continuing to develop defensively. We watch him everyday and I think as we continue to implement our system — we don’t have a lot of set plays in — Brandon is one of those guys that you want to free him up to score, because he does it so naturally.”
Randolph scored 16 points on 11 shots in the Red-Blue Game, plus won the dunk contest, showing an incredible amount of skill and athleticism.
Akot struggled statistically, scoring one point on 0-6 shooting, but Miller lauded his defensively ability.
The 6-foot-7 freshman guarded multiple positions throughout the scrimmage.
“Emmanuel didn’t make as many shots here tonight, but that’s OK,” Miller said after the game. “We see him everyday. He’s as good of a defensive player as a freshman that we’ve had. I don’t say that lightly.”
While Alkins’ injury is obviously unfortunate in that Arizona is losing one if its best players for an extended period of time, Miller thinks it could actually benefit the team in the long run.
“The silver lining in that is I think other players are getting more repetitions, more attention in practice than they otherwise would have,” he said. “My hope is that we can welcome Rawle back sometime in December and some of the young players are maybe a little bit more advanced. That happened to us a year ago.”
Last year, Alkins and Kobi Simmons were forced to play big minutes due to Allonzo Trier’s suspension and Parker Jackson-Cartwright’s ankle sprain.
While Simmons' production eventually faded when Trier returned, Alkins played at a high level throughout the season.
It’s easy to imagine a similar scenario this season where Randolph gets big minutes with Alkins out, develops into a dangerous player, then Alkins returns to give the Wildcats even more firepower near the start of Pac-12 play.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire