Thursday provided the best indication yet that Devonaire Doutrive is slowly but surely becoming a fixture in the Arizona Wildcats’ rotation.
Minutes have been hard to come by for the freshman and his playing time has been sporadic at best, but he played a career-high 12 minutes in the 64-56 win over Colorado, his first real action against a major-conference team. (He did play two minutes against Auburn, but that was in garbage time.)
“As we’ve watched him grow in practice really from the onset I thought there could be a period of time where he’d become important to our team because his style is so much different than everybody else,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller.
Doutrive does two things Arizona generally struggles to do as a team — score and rebound. The swingman tallied eight points and four rebounds Thursday, including three offensive boards, which led to four second-chance points.
Entering Thursday, Doutrive ranked third on Arizona in points per 40 minutes (15.7) and fifth in rebounds per 40 minutes (7.0). The Los Angeles native has only played 58 minutes all year, so that is a small sample size, but his teammates believe his performance against the Buffaloes is a real representation of his ability, not a flash in the pan.
“You guys don’t really see it but we see it every day in practice,” said fellow freshman Brandon Williams. “He does the same thing like he did tonight with those offensive boards and he’s long, he has a 6-9 wingspan, so he can play defense and get in the gaps ... It’s good and we needed that tonight and he showed up.”
Doutrive, extremely measured with his postgame comments, said he was comfortable on the court and has been staying patient, waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
“Whatever’s needed, that’s my role,” he said.
Williams lauded Doutrive for bringing energy off the bench. Doutrive has become something of a fan-favorite in Tucson, so just the mere sight of him checking into a game creates buzz in McKale Center.
His play only adds to it.
“He’s an offensive rebounder, he’s a tremendous athlete, he had a couple turnovers which is expected playing that many minutes as a young player when you haven’t earlier, but he’s clever,” Miller said. “He understands when to pass, when not to and I was just really excited to see it because that’s kind of how things are supposed to go where a young guy just fights, scratches and claws his way into the lineup, doesn’t give up on himself, stays with it, and I believe that he’ll be a big part of what we do this year and certainly if you watch him you know that his best days are in his future, but his offensive rebounding and just his playmaking gives us a different feel and a different look.”
Arizona has struggled to get much production from its bench this season, and its offense ranks a woeful 115th in college basketball per KenPom, so Doutrive could be something of a missing link for the Wildcats, who can improve to 2-0 in the Pac-12 with a win over Utah on Saturday.
More than that, Arizona now needs Doutrive to take on a bigger role since starting point guard Justin Coleman is recovering from a dislocated shoulder and could be limited for the foreseeable future. Williams started at point guard and Dylan Smith was inserted into the starting lineup at the 2 to compensate for Coleman’s injury, opening more minutes for a reserve like Doutrive on the wing.
And while defense has been Doutrive’s weakness to this point, swapping him for the 5-foot-9 Coleman in the rotation gave the Wildcats more length, which might explain why they were able to force 17 turnovers and hold Colorado to 36 percent shooting, one of UA’s best defensive outings of the season.
As Miller said, it’s a different look.
“He makes us a deeper team because he’s earned the right to play a bigger role,” Miller said of Doutrive. “I was really pleased watching him play. He played today like he practiced and that’s a good sign for a freshman.”