Sean Miller, Allonzo Trier, and Dusan Ristic spoke to the media Thursday to discuss all the recent happenings around Arizona Wildcats basketball — at least those that were not related to the FBI investigation.
Here are the most important notes:
Miller, with Trier on his left and Ristic on his right, opened with this prepared statement:
“I stand by my statement from the other day. I fully support the investigation into the allegations and as the investigation proceeds, I will continue to work hard to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance in our organization, just like I have for the last eight years. I will also continue to work hard on bringing us here at the University of Arizona, the most successful basketball season we can have this year.”
Sean Miller gives a statement about Arizona basketball.Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Thursday, October 5, 2017
Assistant director of basketball operations Austin Carroll is allowed to be on the court in place of Book Richardson. Miller said he’s not sure if Arizona will hire another assistant or graduate assistant this season to fill Richardson’s spot.
“We’re just not there yet,” he said. “We’re right now in the moment.”
When asked if he had concerns about any players being ruled ineligible or possible sanctions, Miller said: “I’m excited about our season, our team. I read my statement here a second ago. It’s about coaching these guys. It’s about competing, practicing hard everyday and looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Trier said the adversity the team is going through is “nothing we’re new to.”
“We’re going to focus on what we can control right now — and that’s how much better we can get every single day in practice in a highly competitive environment,” he said. “I think this will all bring us closer together.”
When asked about 2018 recruiting class, Miller said, “We’re hard at it. By NCAA rules, I’m not allowed to comment on anybody that hasn’t signed a National Letter of Intent.”
When asked if Arizona expects to sign two or three players in November, Miller said he’s “not sure about that.”
Miller answered with a firm “no” when asked if he has to change the way he sells the program after the recent investigation.
Freshman Alex Barcello is playing both guard spots and Miller thinks he will be successful as a freshman because of his toughness and physicality.
“I think the hardest adjustment from high school to our program is the point guard ... and Alex is going through that part, but these guys will tell you physically strong, he’s tough, and he’s going to be a good addition to what we have,” Miller said.
Miller said Brandon Randolph “athletically, he’s caught me by surprise. ... His athleticism has boosted. He’s more explosive, he’s stronger, he does a lot of good things on the court.”
Miller said Emmanuel Akot “is as versatile of a player as we’ve had.”
“He has a chance to be a defensive player along the lines of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson,” Miller said.
Akot and Randolph are expected to fill in for Rawle Alkins, who Miller confirmed is out 8-12 weeks.
“They hit the ground running,” Miller said of Akot and Randolph. “You probably saw that with how those guys played in Spain. To me, they’re ready for college, it’s just a matter of them continuing to learn the system.”
Miller said UNC Asheville transfer Dylan Smith brings a lot of “intangibles” to the team.
Miller said Ira Lee is “very similar” as Akot in terms of the versatility he brings.
“He’s able to rebound, play multiple positions,” he said.
“I keep coming back to multiple positions, because when young players can play more than one, it makes our team much deeper. You can play through foul trouble. ... You’re more flexible because you can call on them do more than one thing.
Miller said DeAndre Ayton is 7-feet tall, 260 pounds with a body fat percentage close to 6 percent. And yes, a 43.5-inch vertical.
“With his size, that means he touches the top of the backboard. I’ve never seen anyone touch the top of the backboard,” Miller said. “We’ve had Aaron Gordon, we’ve had Nick Johnson .. but to see DeAndre’s athleticism with as big as he is, you don’t often times see that.”
Ristic says Ayton can score both outside and inside.
“It’s not going to be easy to guard both of us at the same time,” Ristic said.
When asked if multiple UA assistant coaches were involved in the FBI investigation, Miller declined to comment.
In August, Parker Jackson-Cartwright said Lorenzo Romar helped Arizona’s transition attack, so I asked Thursday if improving in that area is a point of emphasis.
Here are parts of the answers Trier and Miller had:
“Obviously we’re going to play defense at a high level, but we’re still looking to push the ball always,” Trier said. “I think Coach Romar gives us a different spin. He gives us a different perspective on how to do it and how he did it while he was at Washington. It’s about Coach Miller and Coach Romar combining their basketball minds and finding the best transition attack for us and how we’re going to do it this year based on the weapons and team that we have.”
Miller added: “(Romar) adds a lot of things on the court, but to me the greatest gift that he gives all of us is who he is off the court.”
Miller thinks Arizona has the right blend of youthful talent and experienced veterans to be “pretty special”, though he said it’s too early to tell if this is his best team, and that there a lot of factors that go into that, including health.
“The thing I love about our practice environment is we have battles,” Miller said. “When Red versus Blue happens, it has great meaning. It’s not tilted in favor of one team over the next.”
Miller didn’t seem disappointed that Arizona only plays USC and UCLA once this year, saying it’s simply a product of the 18-game system the Pac-12 uses.
While Miller said he hasn’t talked with the Pac-12 about expanding the conference schedule to 22 games, he’s sure the Pac-12 is looking into it since two other conferences have already committed to expanding to 20 games.
Larry Scott confirmed that possibility a couple weeks ago.
After the presser, athletic director Dave Heeke spoke to the media. Here’s video of that:
Dave Heeke discusses the state of Arizona basketballPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Thursday, October 5, 2017
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire