As the Arizona Wildcats prep for their three-game exhibition tour in Spain that begins Aug. 10, Sean Miller and a few players sat down with the media to discuss the trip and the upcoming season on Tuesday.
Here were the important takeaways:
Arizona has had eight days of practice so far, and will practice Tuesday and Wednesday before leaving for Barcelona early Thursday morning.
Miller said the practices are similar to what Arizona would hold in October, only shorter. Most practices are 90 to 100 minutes long, he said.
Arizona will only have one practice in Spain and Miller said everyday, “even the day of the game,” the team will have an opportunity to do some sightseeing.
The Wildcats’ first game is Aug. 13 in Valencia against Combinado Valenciano.
Miller said everyone on the roster will play in Spain, and he does not expect anyone to play more than 22 minutes per game.
Walk-on Tyler Trillo is the only player not with the team, as he’s back home doing an internship.
Duke transfer Chase Jeter has to sit out the 2017-18 season, but will travel to Spain with the Wildcats and is expected to play in the three exhibition games.
Miller said 50-60 percent of Arizona’s offense will be used in the three exhibition games.
He said the goal of the Spain trip isn’t necessarily to win, but to build camaraderie.
“As often time is the case, you learn more about your team when you’re around them and maybe some things that we think are true (about our team) aren’t, and that’s the value of a trip like this,” Miller said. “You learn a lot about what you have.”
At this time of the year in most seasons, Miller said, Arizona’s players wouldn’t even be in Tucson.
“The fact that we’re together is something that we’re going to take advantage of,” he said.
Miller said Arizona will sign a minimum of five players in its 2018 recruiting class, and maybe as many as six or seven by the time the class is finalized.
“I think there’s a lot of coaches and fans, and everyone associated with college basketball, that wishes the turnover wouldn’t be like, but that’s the way it is,” Miller said.
Miller said he doesn’t see UNC-Asheville transfer Dylan Smith playing point guard this season.
“That could change, but right now I don’t really see him there,” Miller said. “We have a point guard in Parker, we have a point guard in Alex Barcello. We have the ability for Emmanuel Akot to shift over there and play. And Allonzo Trier can always fill in.”
Ray Smith will be traveling to Spain with Arizona, and will continue to have some sort of role with the Wildcats this season, though Miller wasn’t sure exactly what Smith’s duties will be.
Miller said he has never seen anybody like DeAndre Ayton at his age.
“I don’t think I will again,” he said of the freshman. “It’s just because he’s so physically imposing. He’s a little over 7-feet tall. He’s now over 260 pounds. He’s as strong and as gifted running that I’ve worked with.”
Rawle Alkins compared Ayton to Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.
“He’s a beast,” Alkins said. “He’s a legit 7-footer, he can shoot from the outside. He’s a tough guy. I think he’s going to be a huge presence at the rim. He’s going to defend and block a lot of shots. That’s something we didn’t really have last year.”
Alkins said teams will have to “pick their poison” trying to defend both him and Trier on the wing this season.
“I don’t think any team in college basketball other than us can say they have two wing guys that can dominate the court,” he said. “There’s usually one.”
Miller said Emmanuel Akot’s versatility stands out, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright has been impressed by Akot’s ability to play point guard.
“It’ll surprise fans how well (he plays) and how poised he is at that position,” Jackson-Cartwright said of the 6-foot-7 freshman. “He doesn’t get sped up. He makes the right play almost every time. He’s tough to guard because he can shoot over you and he backs you down with that pace.”
Miller said this is one of the best freshman classes he’s had at Arizona. He mentioned Alex Barcello and Brandon Randolph are adept 3-point shooters.
Miller was mum on what Lorenzo Romar’s on-court role will be with Wildcats this season. He most definitely won’t be a so-called “offensive coordinator,” though.
“In terms of being an offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator, in college basketball you really can’t do that as much, because everyone disappears for a period of time for recruiting,” Miller said. “So when they’re gone, if they’re your offensive coordinator, you basically don’t have an offensive coordinator.”
Still, Alkins said Romar’s presence has changed Arizona’s offense “a lot.”
“I think you guys (will) see it on the court,” Alkins joked. “I couldn’t tell you. I don’t want anyone from Spain scouting us”
Parker Jackson-Cartwright did say Romar is helping Arizona’s transition attack.
“He taught us how to get up the floor quickly on a miss, on a make,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “Getting up the floor and getting a good possession.”
Jackson-Cartwright said Romar hasn’t necessarily increased the number of ball screens Arizona uses, however, which is something 2018 commit Brandon Williams said Romar would add to UA’s offense.
Trier said missing the first half of the 2016-17 season due to suspension is “probably the only” reason why he returned to Arizona for his junior season.
We will have more, in-depth coverage throughout the next few days. You can follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire