Pittsburgh graduate transfer Ryan Luther, a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged a double-double last season, will be an integral part of the Arizona Wildcats’ revamped frontcourt in 2018-19.
If he can stay healthy, that is.
Luther appeared in just 10 games in 2017-18 after he suffered a season-ending stress reaction in his right foot. In 2016-17, he missed 12 games because of a similar injury.
That’s the bad news. The good news is those injuries appear to be over and done with as he enters his lone season in the desert.
UA trainer Justin Kokoskie told Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star that Luther has been fully cleared for three months now.
“Justin and some of the doctors here have been good so I’ve kind of got it under control now,” Luther told Pascoe. “I just have to be smart with it. I can go all-out, but at this point it’s so far away from the season, I have to be smart about it — don’t overdo it, don’t overwork it.”
While Luther’s role has yet to be determined, his ability to step out and shoot the 3 — he shot 39 percent from distance last season — could be a nice complement to UA big men like Chase Jeter and Ira Lee, who are more adept in and around the paint.
And Luther has played the 4 and the 5, which could give Arizona much-needed flexibility since its frontcourt depth is thinner than usual.
Luther’s experience is valuable, too. He has played in 86 college games, which is the second-most among all of Arizona’s scholarship players.
“I think from a physical perspective, skill, he adds to our frontcourt,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in late May. “Our frontcourt isn’t maybe as deep this coming year as it’s been, but with Ryan and then Chase Jeter, you have two players that are in their fourth and fifth year, respectively, in college.
“Both guys played in the ACC, both guys have played with and against great players, and played for tremendous college coaches. So they’re not your typical high school incoming freshmen. They are more battle-tested, which I think will balance out a lot of the change that we’ve had over the last year.”
Still, Luther isn’t quite a proven product yet. Yes, he averaged a double-double last season, but he only played three games against major-conference teams. And the year prior, he averaged just 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest.
So it remains to be seen if Luther can replicate his 2017-18 numbers — and stay healthy — throughout an entire season.