Featuring 10 new players, we didn’t really know a whole lot about the Arizona Wildcats entering the 2020-21 season.
But now that non-conference play is over, here is one thing we have learned about their scholarship players aside from Kerr Kriisa, who is ineligible until Feb. 6.
James Akinjo — His scoring numbers haven’t changed, but his shooting percentages need to improve
Akinjo has averaged 13.4 points per game in each of his first three seasons of college basketball. Yes, that only includes seven games last season and seven games this season, but it’s still one of those stats that blows your mind a little bit.
The problem is Arizona is getting Akinjo’s sophomore year shooting percentages so far. In seven games last year, he shot 33.7% from the field—exactly what he is shooting in his first seven games at Arizona.
Akinjo has taken the most shots on the team, so the Wildcats need him to start converting at a higher clip like he did as a freshman at Georgetown when he posted a shooting line of .356/.391/.812.
He’s only made 31% of his 3s at Arizona after making 24% last season.
Jemarl Baker Jr. — He’s improved a lot
There’s not really much to explain here. Just look at how much his numbers have jumped since last season:
- 2019-20: 5.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 36.5 FG%, 34.3 3PT%, 82.6 FT%
- 2020-21: 15.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 50.6 FG%, 45.5%, 90.9 FT%
Baker is benefitting from being healthy and playing two-guard, his natural position. He started hot last year—though not quite this hot—before fading down the stretch, so it will be interesting to see if he can continue producing like this in conference play.
Jordan Brown — He is boom or bust
Sean Miller said he expected Brown to a double figure scorer this season and he has been so far. The Nevada transfer is averaging just over 10 points per game.
However, more often than not he hasn’t scored in double figures, reaching that mark in just three of seven games. The good news is he’s averaged 17 points per game in those three outings, helping him keep his scoring average high.
Brown has soft touch around the rim but has had trouble avoiding offensive fouls on the low block. That should be something he will improve on once he gets more experience.
Remember, he didn’t play at all last year and only averaged 10.3 minutes per game at Nevada, so he’s not exactly a seasoned vet even though this is his third year in college.
Ira Lee — He is Arizona’s best rebounder
Lee’s role hasn’t changed this year. The senior is still an energy big who is an active defender and relentless rebounder off the bench. Lee is averaging 13.6 boards per 40 minutes, slightly more than Brown and Christian Koloko for the best mark on the team.
Unfortunately Lee’s foul rate—7.0 per 40 minutes—is also the highest mark on the team.
Bennedict Mathurin — He is great off the ball
Mathurin has the highest turnover rate and lowest assist rate among Arizona’s guards. That’s OK because he doesn’t need the ball to be effective.
He is Arizona’s fourth-leading scorer (9.8 PPG) and its most efficient other than the sharpshooting Jemarl Baker Jr.
Scoring mostly on spot-ups, straight line drives and cuts, Mathurin is shooting 49% from the field, 44% from 3, and 80% from the free throw line.
All seven of his 3-pointers have been assisted on, giving you a good idea of how he lets the game come to him.
Terrell Brown Jr. — He is not going to put up big scoring numbers at Arizona, but that’s OK
Brown was a 20 PPG scorer at Seattle, but he’s not going to come close to averaging that at Arizona, mainly because he is only getting 5 shots per game, almost one-fourth of what he got with the Redhawks.
That doesn’t mean he’s not useful, though. He’s shooting 40 percent from 3, has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 23 to 3, and leads the Wildcats in defensive box plus/minus.
Brown’s transition reminds me of the way Kadeem Allen went from being the top junior college scorer in the country to a defensive specialist at Arizona.
Christian Koloko — His offensive game is still a major work in progress
Koloko is an elite shot blocker and nearly-elite rebounder, but his lack of production offensively is hurting his value and got him booted from the starting lineup. He’s averaging just 4.7 points in 17.1 minutes and his field goal percentage (48.0%) is underwhelming for someone who doesn’t shoot 3s and rarely shoots from mid-range.
He’s still struggling at the free throw line too, only making half of his 10 attempts.
Koloko was viewed as a project when Arizona recruited him though, so there’s no reason to give up on him yet.
Dalen Terry — He can do a lot of things, just don’t ask him to score
The freshman is really struggling to score, averaging just 4.4 points in 22.9 minutes. His shooting line—.313/.200/.533—almost makes him unplayable, and he saw his minutes dip when the Wildcats were in close games against Stanford and Montana.
Luckily Terry does a lot of other things, sitting top five on the team in assists, steals and blocks.
Once Terry he gets stronger and has more time to work on his jump shot, he should see his shooting percentages rise at all three levels.
Azuolas Tubelis — He should be a multi-year player
Tubelis was viewed as the best European player to go the college route in his class, making him a potential one-and-done prospect at Arizona. But he would be wise to stay in school for at least one more year.
Tubelis has a versatile skill set. He has active hands, soft touch, is mobile, can step out and hit a jumper, pass from the high post, and even put the ball on the floor.
However, he hasn’t shown that he’s elite at anything yet. So far his best skill is his offensive rebounding rate, where he ranks 86th in the country.
Tubelis is the kind of player you could see averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds as a freshman and something like 15 and 8 as a sophomore after he gets another year to develop and adjust to the differences between college and FIBA basketball.
Tibet Görener and Tautvilas Tubelis — They’re not in the rotation
They have only played a combined 13 minutes and Arizona’s schedule is only going to get more difficult.
Görener should be able to contribute one day because of how well he shoots the 3, but just not this season barring any injuries, illnesses, suspensions, etc.