Alex Barcello did not play a single minute against the Oregon schools last week, but it had nothing to do with the left ankle injury he suffered in early December.
“He’s healthy, he’s working hard. I think Alex has a bright future. It’s just right now he hasn’t played well and it’s no longer December,” Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller said Monday at his weekly presser.
And it’s no longer November, either. That’s when Barcello was at his best and looked like a hidden gem for the Wildcats.
In his first three games at Arizona, the freshman point guard shot 7-12 from the field and 4-7 from 3, all while tallying 11 assists and zero turnovers.
Miller called the former four-star recruit “a pleasant surprise” at the time.
“Not that I didn’t believe in him — I knew that he was going to be a terrific player — but he’s really impacted our games that he’s played in and I just don’t see that changing,” Miller said in November.
Well, it did change.
Partly because of Barcello’s injury which nagged him for a couple games, but also because the Wildcats stopped playing teams like NAU and Cal State Bakersfield.
Barcello’s production cratered when Arizona had its infamous three-game losing streak in the Bahamas.
In 40 minutes across three games, Barcello did not score a single point and recorded just one assist to four turnovers as Arizona battled the likes of N.C. State, SMU, and Purdue.
Barcello hit three 3s in the first game after the Bahamas debacle — against lowly Long Beach State — but has only made one since then. That game was on Nov. 29, mind you.
Combine that cold shooting — Barcello is 1-10 from 3 since Dec. 2 — with the fact he is Arizona’s lowest rated defender (he has a defensive box plus/minus of -0.4) and it has resulted in Barcello being glued to the bench far more often than not as Arizona has entered conference play.
“As we’re in the middle of January, there are tough decisions that we have to make to put our team, this year’s team, in the best light,” Miller said. “But he has a great attitude, he’s working hard in practice, and he can get called on at any time with foul trouble, injuries, and he’s working hard everyday to get better.”
Another hindrance for Barcello is the guys he backs up have been stellar and, thus, don’t come off the floor very often.
Starting point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright is playing roughly 33 minutes per game in Pac-12 play, and is shooting 47 percent from 3 with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.3 this season.
“We have some players that are hard to take out,” Miller said after the Oregon game.
And when Jackson-Cartwright isn’t on the floor, Miller opts to slide Allonzo Trier, one of the most efficient guards in the country, to point guard instead of calling Barcello’s number.
Trier is playing a career-high 34 minutes per game.
“Allonzo’s just more experienced,” Miller said. “He’s bigger. He scores the ball. He plays with confidence and we’ve worked really two years and presented Allonzo with that challenge to make sure that he’s ready.
“We’ve always had three players that have been able to play that position, and Allonzo right now when we shift him from the two to the one, we have a different look. We’re bigger and he has the ability to score and he’s comfortable in the game.”
Only a freshman, Barcello will surely get another chance to shine with the Wildcats at some point.
But that moment might not be until next year when Jackson-Cartwright has graduated and Trier has (likely) departed for the NBA.
“His time will come,” Miller said of Barcello, “but it might not be as plentiful right now.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire