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Arizona plans to use Kerr Kriisa early—and maybe often—at Utah on Thursday

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Kerr Kriisa has waited long enough to make his Arizona Wildcats debut so Sean Miller isn’t going to keep prolonging it.

The UA head coach said Monday on his radio show that he plans to use the freshman guard early at Utah on Thursday, the first game Kriisa is eligible for this season.

“He’s waited so long I think it makes sense to both give those guys (James Akinjo and Terrell Brown) a breather earlier, but also to allow Kerr to get in when the game is beginning so that he gets maybe an initial, quicker opportunity and he’s able to get in the game and get a good feel so that when he comes in again it’s not that first time where he’s just sitting there waiting,” Miller said.

Kriisa has been practicing with Arizona almost all season, so he won’t have a minutes limit, but Miller isn’t sure how much he will play.

“As much as you’re going to try to be perfect with it, it’s going to be some feel and how he does, how the game is going,” Miller said. “But we’re really excited for him that he gets a chance to play.”

Miller reiterated that fans should temper their expectations for Kriisa since this will be his first college game and everyone else is in midseason form. Kriisa is most known for his 3-point shooting and ball-handling, but Miller actually believes Kriisa will help Arizona’s defense more than anything.

The Wildcats have really struggled on that side of the ball, ranking just 56th in the country, per KenPom.

“That’s the first thing that goes when you get winded,” Miller explained. “We’ve been up in the mountains a ton of times together and no matter what types of teams we’ve taken to Utah and Colorado, it’s a grueling trip. You’re going into the elevation and altitude. You’re dealing with cold weather and you’re also dealing with two plane flights not one. You’re dealing with well coached good programs that really rely a lot on their home courts. So they’re difficult games for everybody in the Pac-12. I think having more depth, not less depth, if there’s any trip that you want that to be in place, it would be this one.”

Especially since the Wildcats are already without Jemarl Baker Jr. for the season and Bennedict Mathurin is still recovering from a sprained ankle, forcing Akinjo and Brown to play heavy minutes lately. Kriisa can spare both of them.

“We’ve really been playing with no subs at all,” Miller said. “And when Benn, for example, was down and out, we were going to have to just play forwards at the guard spot and pray to God that both James and Terrell can make it through. So, if nothing else, [Kriisa] gives us some much needed depth. And I think the more that he gets out there in games, the more comfortable he’ll get and you’ll see that he’s a very, very good player.”