Back in August, I compared Brandon Randolph’s all-around game to that of Rawle Alkins.
In two games during Arizona’s exhibition tour in Spain, Randolph averaged 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, while shooting 12-25 from the field and 5-11 from 3.
The former four-star recruit showed the ability to shoot, rebound, defend, and distribute along with dazzling athleticism (he almost killed a guy on a dunk attempt).
“If you watched us in Spain, he showed his immense talent,” Miller said. “Not just because he can shoot it, but athletically, he’s caught me by surprise. As he’s been a part of our strength and conditioning program and has worked over the last four or five months with Coach Rounds, his athleticism has boosted. He’s more explosive, he’s stronger, he does a lot of good things on the court.”
The other main candidate to replace Alkins, Miller said, is another freshman — Emmanuel Akot.
The former five-star recruit’s performance in Spain was a little shakier than Randolph’s, but that’s based on an extremely small sample size because he got injured in Arizona’s second, and final, exhibition.
The 6-foot-7 forward had six points, three rebounds, and three assists on 3-4 shooting in the first game. He then played a handful of minutes in the second game, shooting 0-2 from the field with two assists before being held out.
Akot was originally a 2018 recruit, but he reclassifed to 2017 in late May. Miller mentioned him as an option at point guard back in August.
“He’s as versatile of a player as we’ve had,” the UA head coach said. “He can play any number of positions, is an incredible passer, plays extremely hard. I think he has a chance to be a defensive player along the lines of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
“I’ll never forget the Gonzaga game here in McKale. He guarded (Kevin) Pangos and (Kyle) Wiltjer — the four-man or center and the point guard all within a five-minute period of time. Emmanuel Akot has the makings of being a defensive player like that.”
Parker Jackson-Cartwright said in August that it will surprise people how well Akot can run an offense.
“He doesn’t get sped up. He makes the right play almost every time,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “He’s tough to guard because he can shoot over you and he backs you down.”
The rest of Akot’s offensive game is a bit of a question mark, though he is said to have an improving jump shot.
While Miller mentioned Akot as an option at point guard before, he will likely see more time on the wing now that Alkins is sidelined.
And while replacing someone like Alkins, who excels in several facets of the game, won’t be easy, so far it looks like Arizona has enough firepower to replace him until his return in November or December.
“They hit the ground running,” Miller said of Randolph and Akot. “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.”
What about Dylan Smith?
Smith, a UNC Asheville transfer who sat out last year, might be an overlooked option to replace Alkins, too.
“He’s another player that doesn’t get talked about a lot,” Miller said. “He practiced with us a year ago and he brings a lot of intangibles as a guard.”
The redshirt sophomore was terrific in Spain, averaging 11 points per game while shooting 8-13 from the field and 4-8 from 3.
Smith looked proficient as a spot-up shooter, and has the length to defend multiple positions.
At UNC Asheville, Smith had a high usage rate, meaning he was asked to create a lot of offense, and thus unimpressive shooting percentages. But he could benefit tremendously from playing off the ball at Arizona.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire