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Q&A: Expert breaks down new Arizona commit Ryan Luther

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Let’s get to know the newest Arizona Wildcat

NCAA Basketball: Lehigh at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats landed Pittsburgh Panthers graduate transfer Ryan Luther on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged a team-high 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game at Pitt this season, but he was limited to 10 games after suffering a season-ending foot injury.

We wanted to know more about the newest Wildcat, so we asked our friends at Cardiac Hill, the Pittsburgh SB Nation site, for some insight.

Here is what staff writer Mike Wilson had to say.

Ryan Kelapire: Can you outline Luther’s career at Pittsburgh, how he improved over time, and why he transferred?

Mike Wilson: Luther was a local three-star recruit brought in by former Pitt coach Jamie Dixon in 2014. He saw limited action early on but emerged as a good option off the bench under Kevin Stallings in his junior season. Last year looked like it was going to be his breakout campaign, and I would attribute his impressive performance early on to his relative experience in Stallings’ system as one of two returning scholarship players at the time as well as his experience as a senior.

Luther has said several times throughout this process that he didn’t like the way Stallings was treated, so that may have factored into his decision to leave. But the most notable issue is that, had he decided to stay, he would have been starting over under a new coach for the third time in his collegiate career. Given that, it seems like he left to find a more stable situation and to spend his final year of eligibility on a higher-visibility team that’s going to be able to compete immediately.

RK: How would you describe his offensive game? What does he do well and what does he not do well?

MW: Offensively, Luther has the size to score inside and the ability to sink 3-pointers as well. While he’s versatile, he’s also been somewhat inconsistent throughout his career, especially against high-major opponents. For example, he contributed a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double in Pitt’s 69-60 loss to West Virginia in December. But against Penn State in November, he could only muster six points in 29 minutes on a 2-of-11 shooting performance from the field. He was also inconsistent against ACC opponents in his sophomore and junior seasons.

His struggles in his junior season were likely due to his injury issues, but in a healthy sophomore season, he averaged 5.8 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19 games against ACC opponents. That included a solid 17-point performance against Louisville that saw him make six of his eight shots from the field. It also included a two-point performance against the same team, during which he made just one of his five shot attempts. He was similarly inconsistent against Syracuse. Luther showed improvement as a senior, but that was in 10 games against mostly middling teams.

RK: How is Luther as a defender? Which position is he best suited for?

MW: Despite his size, Luther hasn’t really been known for his defensive contributions. He’ll come up with an occasional block, but that’s not a notable feature of his game. One positive is that he managed to come up with 1.6 steals per game in his senior season with Pitt, and that hadn’t been a significant aspect of his game prior to the 2017-18 season. So he’s at least showing more awareness on defense. As far as position, he seems best suited to play power forward.

RK: Luther averaged 12 and 10 this past season, but only played in 10 games. What do you think his numbers would have been if he played a full season?

MW: It’s hard to imagine him sustaining that output, considering the disparity in competition between the non-conference schedule and the ACC schedule. But he did have a promising outing against West Virginia that provided a glimpse into what he could do against a Top 25 team. He also would have had plenty of scoring opportunities on a team that struggled offensively without him. With that said, I imagine he would have finished with about 11 points and nine rebounds per game, given the quality of competition.

RK: Is Luther’s durability a serious concern or has he just had freak injuries?

MW: Luther missed 22 games this season after suffering a stress reaction in his right foot. He missed 12 games last season due to the same injury to the same foot. So there’s concern it could be a chronic issue that could sideline him again. Of course, given that additional time out of the lineup, he may be in a better position heading into next season than he was this year. So while his injury issues are certainly concerning, there’s at least some reason for optimism.

RK: What is going to be Pittsburgh fans’ fondest memory of Luther?

MW: There’s no exact moment or game that’s definitive of Luther’s career in Pittsburgh, but I think he’ll be remembered by most Pitt fans as a bright spot that emerged during one of the program’s lowest points. What comes to mind for me is his decision to stay with the team in 2017 despite the departure of six players after four others graduated and one was dismissed. It’s odd to bring that up as he’s transferring, but the fans appreciated his commitment to Pitt and his leadership. Without him on the team last year, even as briefly as he was, there’s little doubt Pitt would have been even worse off than it was.