After an impressive showing in Spain in August, expectations were high for Arizona Wildcats freshman Brandon Randolph entering the 2017-18 season.
And when Rawle Alkins went down with a foot injury in September, it meant Randolph would likely get a chance to play a lot immediately.
So far, that hasn’t happened, though not really to any fault of his own. Randolph suffered a concussion during the exhibition season which sidelined him for more than a week.
The injury forced him to miss one of Arizona’s two exhibitions then the season-opener as his concussion symptoms lingered. Randolph made his official debut in UA’s second game of the regular season, but he entered when it was already out of reach, scoring five points in four minutes.
Currently, Randolph is near the bottom of the pecking order in Arizona’s rotation, but Sean Miller expects that to change as the freshman continues to get back to form.
“We’ll work him back into it. We basically just got his feet wet the last game,” Miller said Wednesday. “I would think that he would have the next step from there and hopefully he has another good day in practice today.
“Yesterday, he practiced well, was able to get through from start to finish. All of the symptoms that he experienced are clearly behind him now. He looked like himself. A couple guys that I’ve dealt with in basketball that have had concussions, visually they just appear to be different. They’re just not quite locked in. They’re not as engaged as they usually are. Brandon was back yesterday and did a good job in practice.”
Miller said Wednesday was Randolph’s first “real full practice” in almost two weeks, and he expects the guard’s minutes to ramp up against Cal State Bakersfield on Thursday.
“I haven’t lost any confidence in Brandon,” Miller said. “Brandon is off to a great start. He has surpassed our expectations on where we thought he would be young in his career as a freshman, but when you miss eight or nine practices and are hit with a concussion so that you’re not able to do anything at all and you’re recovering, it takes some time to work back in.”
With Randolph still on the mend and Alkins out, Miller said he won’t have a good feel for what UA’s rotations will truly look like until mid-December.
At that point, Randolph may be competing with Alkins, Emmanuel Akot, and Ira Lee for playing time at small forward.
“We have depth there. It’s going to settle in, though,” Miller said. “There’s going to be a winner. I don’t want to say a loser, the loser simply is going to have to wait their turn. Not everyone gets to play equal minutes. Like all college teams, we’ll eventually shorten once things are proved and we have a lot more practices and games under our belt. Injuries and those types of things, you hope we can stay healthy and those guys (Randolph and Alkins) can work their way back.”
The determining factor for playing time? Defense, probably. Arizona has posted two 100-point games to begin the season, but Miller said he is “equally concerned” about the defense as he is happy about the offense.
“Eventually what you come to is you’re no longer going to play because you’re not willing to play defense the way we need to play or you’re going to play less,” he said. “On the contrary, you’re going to play more, you’re going to now start because you’re doing things that we need you to do defensively.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire