The Arizona Wildcats have been able to get 11 of their 13 scholarship players into one or more of their first five games. It’s anybody’s guess when, or if, the other two will see action this season.
Coach Sean Miller said Tuesday the team is still in a “holding pattern” when it comes to freshman point guard Kerr Kriisa, who is still awaiting NCAA clearance to play, while freshman forward Daniel Batcho is progressing well following knee surgery in October.
“He’s eight weeks today post-surgery, so he’s really into his rehab,” Miller said of Batcho, a 6-foot-10 native of France. “He’s come a long way in eight weeks. He’s a hard worker, and I think he’ll make a lot of progress over the next month.”
Kriisa, who left the team in late November to play for his native Estonia in a FIBA 2022 qualifying tournament, is out of quarantine and is now a “regular player” in practice, according to Miller.
“Our practices are just that much more competitive, faster, simulate the game more when he’s a part of the action,” Miller said of Kriisa. “It makes our practices much, much more competitive.”
Miller said Kriisa is remaining in the fold as if he could be cleared to play at any moment, not just for the team’s sake but because “it’s the best way to develop him as a player. Every chance he has to practice in a given week it develops him.”
As for Batcho, Miller said they’re going to proceed with “tremendous caution” before trying to consider getting him back to practice, let alone play in a game. Batcho is currently spending most of his time working with strength coach Chris Rounds, either on a stationary bike or in the weight room in order to improve his cardio and leg strength, while trainer Justin Kokoskie is helping Batcho with strength and flexibility exercises.
“We’re hoping that eventually he’s able to return to practice, that’s probable,” Miller said. “Whether he’ll ever be able to play in any games, that remains to be seen.”
Because the NCAA is not counting the 2020-21 season toward a player’s eligibility, Miller said there’s no need to definitively shut Batcho down.
“You can play him down the home stretch of our season if he’s healthy and capable and it doesn’t count against him,” Miller said. “I would really the say the same thing about Kerr if he was allowed to play at some point.”