Where is Devonaire?
It’s the question seemingly every Arizona Wildcats fan wants the answer to.
Devonaire Doutrive has shown a penchant for making electrifying plays, averaging 18.5 points per 40 minutes including a nice 69.2 shooting percentage, yet he has only played 41 minutes this season, sitting out half of Arizona’s 12 games.
And it’s not like he is a walk-on feasting on equally poor competition. Doutrive was a top-100 recruit out of high school, top-10 in the state of the California.
He can play, but doesn’t.
That does not make much sense for an Arizona team that ranks 105th in offensive efficiency and sorely needs a scoring punch, but it all circles back to defense where Doutrive is a work in progress.
“The hardest part going from high school to college is defense,” said UA coach Sean Miller. “That would be the same for a Lauri Markkanen or a Deandre (Ayton), Stanley Johnson. The one freshman that maybe had no problem with it was Aaron Gordon, but that was like his gift. It’s hard to go from high school to college, the demands and how hard you have to play. So (Devonaire is) learning, he’s so much better now than he was.”
Part of Doutrive’s problem is his frame. He entered the program at 165 pounds, rail thin for a 6-foot-5 wing, putting him at a disadvantage against bigger, maturer wings. So thin that Miller could not conjure up an adequate player comparison for Doutrive, though I might suggest Dylan Smith or Mark Tollefsen.
“It’s hard to really to compare because just his build, where he is in terms of his physique, how much he weighs, he’s not as far along as some of the guys that might come to mind like a Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) or those type of guys,” Miller said. “But his upside is huge and you see that. I know you see it when he gets in the game and we see it every day in practice, but he’s working really hard in the weight room. You don’t go from his starting point which was, say, 165 (pounds) to 190. But there’s a big difference when he’s out there at 175 or 180 and he’s really working in that area.”
There is no telling what the scale says now—Doutrive is listed at 175 pounds, for what it’s worth—but Miller says it’s time to give Doutrive a go.
And this time he seems to mean it.
Remember, Miller declared similar things after the Maui Invitational, saying Doutrive could be the spark the team needed after struggling in the final two games of the tournament.
And early on, it appeared Miller was going to stay true to his word. Doutrive scored eight points in 11 minutes against a decent Georgia Southern team in Arizona’s first game back on the mainland.
But it didn’t last.
The very next game, at UConn, Doutrive picked up his third DNP of the season. He picked up his fourth in a surprisingly close game against Utah Valley, then sat out against Alabama and Baylor, showing that Miller didn’t trust the freshman in tight games.
But now that Arizona has fallen to Alabama and Baylor, what is there to lose?
“He’s slowly but surely coming around every day in practice,” Miller said. “As he gets stronger and more experienced, the better days are ahead for Devonaire, and he knows that. But on this year’s team I think we’re now at a point where allowing him to grow and play more minutes makes a lot of sense.”
Alas, Doutrive played six minutes in Wednesday’s win vs. Montana, making his first appearance midway through the first half.
He finished with two points and a turnover. Not his best performance, but those aren’t the stats Miller will use to determine if Doutrive deserves more, or less, playing time moving forward.
“It was good to get him in the game tonight and we’ve planned on doing that, it’s just we’ve been in a couple tough games recently at Alabama, Baylor and sometimes when you’re that ninth or 10th guy, the window doesn’t open for you,” Miller said. “But right now we’re better to play him a segment because he’s going to give us energy and effort. I love his attitude and confidence is a big deal and he has it.
“I thought he had a couple great moments defensively tonight and that’s what’s going to get him on the court. And then when you could trust him on defense, all of a sudden he can give us more depth.”