The Arizona Wildcats’ season has ended, so we’re going to take a look back at how each player fared during the year and what’s next for them. First up is freshman guard Brandon Randolph.
- 3.7 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 11.6 MPG
- 38.3 FG%, 32.6 3PT%, 73.1 FT%
- vs. Purdue: 17 points, 7-11 FG
- vs. Texas A&M: 13 points, 2 rebounds, 3-5 FG, 1-2 3PT, 6-8 FT
- vs. Alabama: 13 points, 5-10 FG, 3-5 3PT, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
- vs. UNLV: 8 points, 3-3 FG
2017-18 in review
Aside from Deandre Ayton, Brandon Randolph entered the 2017-18 season as Arizona’s highest-touted freshman, ranking as the No. 38 player in the 2017 class, so expectations were high.
Those expectations were exacerbated after Randolph showed a well-rounded game in UA’s Spain exhibition tour, averaging 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, while shooting 12-25 from the field and 5-11 from 3. He then showed off his tantalizing athleticism by winning the Red-Blue Game dunk contest.
But Randolph suffered a concussion just before the start of the regular season, which forced him to miss an exhibition and the season-opener against NAU.
When Randolph returned, he was quiet until the Wildcats went to the Bahamas. He went scoreless in UA’s first two losses there before exploding for a career-high 17 points in UA’s blowout loss to Purdue.
Randolph carried that momentum into early December, scoring in double figures in three of the next four games, including a pair of 13-point outings against Texas A&M and Alabama, which helped the Wildcats secure two of their best wins of the season.
It looked like Randolph had emerged as a reliable contributor, but he did not score in double figures the rest of the season. In fact, his highest point total was just seven. Part of that had to with Rawle Alkins returning and cutting into Randolph’s playing time.
Unlike a lot of freshman who improve as the year goes on, Randolph regressed. In conference play, he averaged just 1.9 points per game in 9.2 minutes on a dismal 28.6 shooting percentage, including a 3-of-19 mark from 3 — and only Allonzo Trier and Dylan Smith finished with a lower defensive box plus/minus than Randolph (0.1).
In fairness, Randolph’s minutes fluctuated and he never had a consistent role once Alkins returned. For instance, Randolph did not play at all in the final two games of the Pac-12 Tournament, but then played nine minutes in UA’s first-round loss to Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament.
Similarly, when Randolph was successful in early December, he was in the starting lineup and getting consistent playing time.
So it is easy to wonder how he would have fared had he been used differently.
Randolph didn’t play a whole lot as a freshman, but that should change substantially as a sophomore.
The Yonkers, New York native is one of six scholarship players set to return to the Wildcats next season, and is on track to be a starter at shooting guard or small forward.
That is because Trier and Alkins are heading to the NBA, and the UA currently has zero 2018 commits, so frankly Arizona doesn’t have many other options.
Dylan Smith and Emmanuel Akot, whose first seasons at Arizona weren’t exactly impressive, will be Randolph’s main competition.
Based on how he played as a freshman, Randolph has a long way to go to be a top-notch player in the Pac-12, but the talent is there based on his high school production and the glimpses he’s shown at Arizona.
One thing Randolph needs to do is add strength. The athletic swingman was listed at 6-foot-6, 175 pounds as a freshman which allowed him to be pushed around on both sides of the floor. It was especially noticeable on offense where he had little success driving to the hoop despite his quick-twitch athleticism, shooting just 50 percent at the rim.
Players are often believed to make the biggest improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons, and it is easy to imagine that happening for Randolph since he will have an increased role and more familiarity within the program — and college basketball — as a whole.
But whether or not Randolph actually makes that leap forward obviously remains to be seen. And given how UA’s roster is shaping up, Arizona needs Randolph to improve drastically otherwise it could be a rough year in the desert.
“Brandon is very explosive on the offensive end, and continuing to develop defensively. We watch him everyday and I think as we continue to implement our system — we don’t have a lot of set plays in — Brandon is one of those guys that you want to free him up to score, because he does it so naturally.” — head coach Sean Miller
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire