UA head coach Sean Miller told Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star that Alkins (foot) has been cleared for full contact but he does not think the sophomore is ready to debut just yet.
Alkins has only participated in one full contact practice so far. The wing suffered a Jones fracture in late September which requires a 8-to-12 week recovery.
“He’s gotta get a number of those types of (full contact) practices under his belt where there’s no soreness, where he feels confident,” Miller told Pascoe. “(Going) one-on-zero is different. You get out there five-on-five and he’s still a little tentative but I think he’ll come back. Remember he has done nothing for nine weeks. Nothing.”
Alkins is expected to solve several of the Wildcats’ early-season woes. For one, he could be the stingy perimeter defender the team is sorely lacking.
For another, the sophomore will add a much-needed scoring threat alongside Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton.
Those two combined for 57 of Arizona’s 91 points Saturday in UA’s overtime win at UNLV, and that type of imbalanced scoring effort has not been infrequent this season, as UA’s freshmen (other than Ayton) have gotten off to slow starts.
Alkins will also be another playmaking option on the perimeter, plus he is a solid rebounding threat on both ends of the court.
“Eventually he’s going to return and when he does, I believe we’re returning one of the best players in our conference,” Miller said last week. “He is going to give us some qualities that are going to really help right away. Another offensive rebounder, another defensive rebounder, a big, strong physical player.”
Miller has been critical of Arizona’s effort this season, calling it “terrible” after Wednesday’s win over Long Beach State, but said he knows Alkins is “part of the solution.”
“He’s a really big part of our team, bigger than maybe any of us realized because there’s such a drop off emotionally, there’s such a drop off physically without him,” Miller said.
If Alkins does not return against Texas A&M, his next chance to debut would be Dec. 9 when Arizona hosts No. 24 Alabama.
“We don’t want to rush him. We have to be very smart,” Miller said last week. “When you have a Jones fracture, the worst thing you can do is come back too early.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire