The Arizona Wildcats were without two of their top players in Friday’s unexpectedly close 74-65 win over Chico State. Freshman Zeke Nnaji was held out with an ankle injury while sophomore Devonaire Doutrive was suspended after violating team rules.
Head coach Sean Miller declined to provide a timetable for Doutrive’s return, referring to a statement that called his suspension indefinite, but expects Nnaji to play next week when Arizona opens the regular season against NAU.
“He has an ankle sprain. I don’t think it’s very serious,” Miller said Friday. “We’re working really, really hard with him, but tonight’s game made no sense for him to play. Sitting tonight out and having the weekend (to rest), we expect him to play next week.”
Chico State shot 45 percent and 10-for-25 from 3 against Arizona’s defense, which should receive a big boost when Nnaji returns to the lineup.
“He gives us more depth, quickness, can switch, can make hard plays around the basket, very good rebounder,” Miller said. “None of our bigs have to play heavy minutes and that makes your defense better, but we gave up too many 3s.”
Miller referred to Doutrive and Nnaji as starters, presumably alongside Chase Jeter, Nico Mannion and Josh Green.
Nnaji enters the program as a top-40 recruit while Doutrive is hoping to take a big leap after a freshman season in which he averaged 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Both have been awarded the gold jersey in practice this fall, signifying that they are two of Arizona’s top players. Their absence was evident Friday.
“We had kind of a funny vibe tonight,” Miller said. “I think we took the court with a lot of guys doing things for the first time, a group of guys that haven’t done a lot of things together, a couple guys are young freshmen, and then some guys who are just new to Arizona, and that felt that way here tonight.”