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Arizona basketball: Wildcats’ offense to feature more ball screens

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This could have positive long-term effects on the program

NCAA Basketball: Northern Colorado at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

When Lorenzo Romar was introduced to Tucson media after being hired by the Arizona Wildcats in April, he was mum on what type of philosophical changes he’d bring to Arizona basketball.

“Those are some of the things I won’t get into,” the UA’s newest associate head coach said at the time.

While Romar was unwilling to reveal anything, it is believed he could influence the pace the Wildcats play at.

Traditionally, Sean Miller-coached teams play at one of the slowest paces in the Pac-12, while Romar’s teams at Washington generally played an uptempo style of basketball.

While it’s unclear how much influence Romar will have on Miller, it appears we know one aspect of Arizona’s offense that will be altered moving forward.

Five-star point guard Brandon Williams, a 2018 recruit who committed to Arizona in early June, said the Wildcats plan to feature more ball screens.

“They are starting to do a lot more ball screens, which fits my game,” Williams told ESPN.

If Williams is right, it could prove to be an extremely beneficial change for Arizona. Aside from the fact that it could help UA’s offensive efficiency, more ball screens could help Arizona become a more desirable destination for the nation’s top point guard recruits.

The pick-and-roll is the staple of modern NBA offenses, and how well point guards entering the league can operate off ball screens can greatly impact how they’re evaluated at the next level.

For instance, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is expected to be a top-three pick in this month’s NBA Draft, but his “work in the pick-and-roll is underwhelming” and therefore some have questioned if he can truly be a lead guard in the league, despite his excellence as a passer.

By utilizing more ball screens, the Wildcats can offer incoming point guards plenty of opportunities to showcase their pick-and-roll mastery to NBA teams and/or help them improve that area of their game.

From a win-loss perspective, Romar didn’t have much success at Washington in recent seasons, but he did land two point guards who turned out to be first-round picks — Markelle Fultz and Dejounte Murray (and even though Isaiah Thomas was not a first-round pick, he has become one of the best guards in the NBA).

Despite owning the “Point Guard U” moniker, Arizona has not had a point guard drafted in the first round since Jerryd Bayless in 2008, and the highest-ranked point guard recruit the Wildcats have landed under Sean Miller is Josiah Turner.

The inability to haul in an elite high school point guard is one reason why many believe Arizona has failed to reach a Final Four under Miller.

But early returns after the Romar hire indicate that could change as the Wildcats have already landed Williams and are in the running for two other highly-touted 2018 point guard recruits in Jahvon Quinerly and Devon Dotson.

"The addition of coach [Lorenzo] Romar only helped me out,” Williams told ESPN.

At the same time, the Wildcats have to be careful they don’t tinker too much with their offense as it hasn’t exactly been broken in recent seasons. They have finished top 20 in the country in offensive efficiency every year since 2012-13.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire