On Tuesday, the Arizona Wildcats landed UC Irvine graduate transfer Max Hazzard, a 5-foot-10 guard who averaged 12.5 points per game this past season.
Hazzard has one year of eligibility left and can play immediately. What does he bring to the Wildcats? Let’s take a look.
Shooting. Lots of shooting.
Arizona’s 3-point shooting sunk to new lows in 2018-19, as the Wildcats shot just 33.6 percent from distance, easily their worst mark ever under Sean Miller. The previous low was 35.8 percent in 2009-10, Miller’s first season.
Arizona sorely needs to improve in that area, and Hazzard will help.
The 5-foot-10 guard shot 38.7 percent from 3 this past season, despite hoisting nearly seven 3s per game. Hazzard drained 93 3-pointers last season. Dylan Smith and Ryan Luther, Arizona’s top 3-point shooters, combined to make 91.
Arizona will need guys who can reliably space the floor for Nico Mannion, Brandon Williams and Josh Green, and not only can Hazzard do that, he can do it extremely well.
NCAA Tournament experience
It seems odd to say this about a player from the Big West, but Hazzard will be one of the few players on Arizona’s roster with NCAA Tournament experience.
And, aside from Chase Jeter, he will be the only player who has actually won an NCAA Tournament game. Hazzard scored 19 points in a first-round win over Kansas State in March.
He was also the Big West Tournament MVP, showing a penchant of stepping up when the stakes are high.
Thus, Hazzard should provide a veteran presence to an otherwise young backcourt and a steadying presence when the Wildcats are locked in close games.
Despite his size, Hazzard was a two-guard at UC Irvine, though he did play the point at times. That gives the Wildcats three capable ball-handlers in Hazzard, Mannion and Williams. Four if you count Alex Barcello.
That means the Wildcats will be well-stocked in case of injury or foul trouble. Williams missed several games with a knee injury last season, which is why this is important.
In addition, Hazzard’s ability to play both spots means he can be mixed and matched with Mannion and Williams, and could even play with both of them if Arizona doesn’t mind going super small.
The point being: Hazzard doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective, so he shouldn’t take away from Mannion and Williams’ ability to create.
The numbers are fuzzy on Hazzard’s defensive impact. On one hand, he started for a UC Irvine team that had the 27th-best defensive efficiency in the country last season.
On the other hand, he had the second-worst defensive rating on the team (101.2) and the worst defensive box plus/minus (-1.4), suggesting Hazzard was a weak point on an otherwise stellar defensive team.
From a counting stats perspective, Hazzard had 28 steals, one block and 57 defensive rebounds in 37 games, which are low totals. Hazzard’s size certainly limits his positional versatility, too.
But as a veteran, the hope is that Hazzard can help some of the young guys learn Arizona’s schemes and the nuances of the game, similarly to how Justin Coleman was a positive influence on Williams last season.
Hazzard’s older brother, Jacob, was a walk-on and fan-favorite at Arizona from 2012-16.
Having another Hazzard will evoke some of those old memories, and Jacob surely will be a frequent visitor in McKale Center this season.
You hear college programs referring to themselves as families, and in Arizona’s case it is an apt description now that another Hazzard is on board.