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How grad transfers have fared at Arizona under Sean Miller

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Pretty good, but not great

When the Arizona Wildcats added former Seattle U guard Terrell Brown this offseason, he became the latest in a steady stream of graduate transfers to stop through the program in the Sean Miller era.

Since Miller was hired as head coach in 2009, the Wildcats have landed eight grad transfers, four of them joining the program in the last two seasons alone.

Brown has the best statistics of them all, averaging 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.6 steals with the Redhawks last season. Though as you’ll see in this breakdown, big numbers at mid-majors don’t usually translate to the Pac-12.

Here’s how grad transfers have fared at Arizona under Miller. (Spoiler: pretty good, but not great.)

Mark Lyons, Xavier

Harvard v Arizona Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
  • Stats in last season with Xavier (2011-12): 31.9 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.2 TOV, 1.3 SPG, 42.5 FG%, 39.2 3PT%, 76.1 FT%
  • Stats with Arizona (2012-13): 30.3 MPG, 15.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.7 TOV, 1.3 SPG, 43.5 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 85.6 FT%
  • Overview: The Wildcats needed a lead guard after five-star recruit Josiah Turner flamed out after one season, and Miller turned to one of his former Xavier recruits to fill the void. Lyons was exactly as advertised—a high-scoring, sometimes erratic, two-guard in a point guard’s body. He was the leading scorer on an Arizona team that went 27-8, finished second in the Pac-12, and lost to No. 2 seed Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen. Lyons had 23 points that night, one of nine 20-point games he posted at Arizona. His highest point total (27) came against Harvard in the Round of 32. He also dropped 23 against Belmont in the first round, stepping up when it mattered most. His most famous play came in the improbable comeback vs. Florida when he scooped in the game-winning layup at the buzzer.

Mark Tollefsen, San Francisco

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Providence Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
  • Stats in last season with USF (2014-15): 31.3 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 53.5 FG%, 37.8 3PT%, 64.6 FT%
  • Stats with Arizona (2015-16): 21.9 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.6 BPG, 0.4 SPG, 51.4 FG%, 35.6 3PT%, 79.5 FT%
  • Overview: A lanky small forward with some bounce, Tollefsen’s statistical decline at Arizona can be explained by a diminished role. In his final season at USF, he averaged more than 10 shots per game, the most on the team. In his lone season at the UA, he averaged five shots per game, sixth-most on the team. Tollefsen maintained his high efficiency with the Wildcats thanks to some heady shot selection (he basically only took open 3s and layups), but how you evaluate his time as a Wildcat depends on what your expectations were for him. If you expected him to be a high-end starter like he was at USF, then he disappointed you. If you expected him to be a quality role player, then he was a success. Plus, he won the Red-Blue dunk contest, living up to his billing as the stereotypical “sneaky” athlete.

Talbott Denny, Lipscomb

Northern Arizona v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images
  • Stats in last (full) season with Lipscomb (2014-15): 23.1 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.3 TOV, 0.6 SPG, 51.3 FG%, 30.0 3PT%, 61.3 FT%
  • Stats with Arizona (2017-18): 3 G, 2.0 MPG, 0.3 PPG, 0.3 TOV, 50.0 FT%
  • Overview: If we’re being honest, Arizona probably wouldn’t have had much interest in adding Denny as a scholarship player had he not been a Tucson native, lifelong UA fan and former Salpointe standout. And any chance he had at contributing was ravaged by injuries. The 6-foot-5 wing was supposed to start his UA career in 2016-17 but tore his ACL at the rec center just before the start of the season, leading him to apply for a medical redshirt for the 2017-18 campaign. He received a waiver but only appeared in three games that year as the roster was stacked. Denny also missed all but one game of the 2015-16 season at Lipscomb because of a shoulder injury. Add all that together and he only appeared in four games from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

Justin Coleman, Samford

justin-coleman-arizona-wildcats-sean-miller-graduate-assistant-college-basketball-2020 Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Stats in last season with Samford (2017-18): 32.5 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 6.6 APG, 2.8 RPG, 2.7 TOV, 1.2 SPG, 43.5 FG%, 37.0 3PT%, 80.6 FT%
  • Stats with Arizona (2018-19): 30.8 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 TOV, 38.0 FG%, 39.8 3PT%, 78.8 FT%
  • Overview: Sharing the backcourt with Brandon Williams, it was inevitable that Coleman was going to see his counting stats fall at Arizona. His usage rate dropped from 22.7 percent at Samford to 17.7 at Arizona. But he also struggled against the stiffer competition he faced at Arizona, shooting just 32 percent in Pac-12 play. Part of that had to do with his physical limitations—he’s 5-foot-10 and not super quick—and part of it had to do with injuries. He suffered a gruesome shoulder dislocation late in the season but played through it when most players would have called it quits. Coleman’s goal at Arizona was to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his career, but unfortunately they fell short. Then, in 2019-20 when he returned as a grad assistant, it was canceled because of the coronavirus. But Coleman will be back on staff in 2020-21, so maybe he will finally get that March Madness experience he’s always wanted. Regardless, his leadership has been an asset for Arizona both as a player and grad assistant.

Ryan Luther, Pittsburgh

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 09 Washington State at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Stats in last season with Pittsburgh (2017-18): 32.5 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 45.7 FG%, 38.7 3PT%, 65.5 FT%
  • Stats with Arizona (2018-19): 24.9 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 0.2 BPG, 44.0 FG%, 37.5 3PT%, 76.5 FT%
  • Overview: Luther’s Pitt numbers in 2017-18 were deceiving since he only appeared in 10 games that season, mostly against mid-major opponents, before missing the rest of the year with a back injury. While the 6-foot-9 forward was able to maintain his efficiency at Arizona, he was too passive. Miller once said that Luther was being selfish by being too unselfish. Because when he wasn’t passing up open shots, he was a lethal marksman. Luther also saw his rebounding rates drop at Arizona, dropping from a 18.0 total rebounding percentage in his final season at Pitt to 10.2 as a Wildcat, the second-worst rate of his career. Luther lost his starting spot to Emmanuel Akot seven games into the season, then reclaimed it when Akot abruptly left the program in January. Overall, Luther was a decent stopgap at a time when Arizona was lacking options after its recruiting class fell apart in the wake of the FBI investigation.

Stone Gettings, Cornell

stone-gettings-arizona-wildcats-college-basketball-concussion-penn-cornell-rebounding-injury-2020 Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
  • Stats in last season with Cornell (2017-18): 26.8 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0.7 SPG, 48.7 FG%, 36.8 3PT%, 82.5 FT%
  • Stats with Arizona (2019-20): 20.5 MPG, 6.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 48.3 FG%, 36.6 3PT%, 69.4 FT%
  • Overview: Gettings actually spent three semesters with the Wildcats, joining them after graduating from Cornell in December 2018. He was never going to replicate his Cornell numbers at Arizona since he was going to be, at best, Arizona’s fourth option behind Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji. Gettings was quite similar to Luther, only his offensive game was a little more diverse because of his ability to create from the high post and he was more nimble defensively. Gettings’ rebounding rate was slightly better too, and his experience was critical for an otherwise young team. Gettings saw his numbers improve during conference play, and perhaps if he had not missed a month of the non-conference season with a concussion and facial fracture, he would have hit his stride sooner. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention his academic accolades. Gettings maintained a 4.0 GPA while earning his master’s in accounting, was named the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and collected a Tom Hansen Conference Medal, which is given to one male and female student-athlete at each Pac-12 institution for displaying the “greatest combination of performance and achievement in scholarship, athletics and leadership.”

Max Hazzard, UC Irvine

Utah v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Stats in last season with UC Irvine (2018-19): 26.4 MPG, 12.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 TOV, 0.7 SPG, 41.2 FG%, 38.8 3PT%, 77.9 FT%
  • Stats with Arizona (2019-20): 14.8 MPG, 5.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.6 TOV, 42.4 FG%, 38.2 3PT%, 83.3 FT%
  • Overview: It was hoped that Hazzard would be a spark plug off the bench at Arizona, but he was wildly inconsistent. The diminutive shooting guard scored in double figures four times, including a 24-point outburst against Utah, but went scoreless seven times. And that does not include the three games he missed at the end of the season for personal reasons, a weird way to cap his college career. Like so many mid-major grad transfers who make the jump to a major conference, Hazzard was willing to take on a lesser role at Arizona, where his older brother Jacob was once a walk-on, but he never seemed to settle in.