With Saturday possibly being Ira Lee’s last game in McKale Center, he will start for Arizona vs. Washington, a Senior Day courtesy that Sean Miller also afforded to Jordin Mayes in 2014 and Matt Korcheck in 2015.
Lee deserves it. He is only the eighth player in the Miller era to sign with Arizona out of high school and stay for four seasons. He’s overcome plenty of obstacles, including a lack of playing time, a DUI, a postseason ban, and the FBI investigation that put the UA program in turmoil during the 2017-18 season, Lee’s freshman year.
“Ira is a great kid. He’s one of the most popular players on all four teams that he’s played on,” Miller said. “And trust me, there’s a lot of guys that come and go during the four years he’s been here. So if you take inventory of what I just said, being a great teammate, really caring about the team that he’s a part of, respecting our basketball program, those are things that Ira gets an A+ in. He’s also going to graduate, and getting a degree from the University of Arizona alone is quite an accomplishment. So he’ll do that this spring and I also think that he’s been a key contributor and been able to impact each of the four teams that he’s been on.”
A former four-star recruit, Lee has averaged 4.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks across 110 games. The energetic forward is only averaging 11.1 minutes this season, the fewest since his freshman year.
“It may not be overwhelming in terms of statistics, but blocked shots, dunks playing with energy and, most importantly, and one of the reasons he’s so popular, is Ira shows up every day,” Miller said. “He puts in a lot of work. He practices. He practices hard. He competes. And that characteristic alone is so beneficial to our program. Ira also is somebody that college is a place where you learn lessons on and off the court, and I think that he’s a better decision maker. I think he’s more mature and he’s learned through mistakes. He’s learned through great victories. He’s prepared when he leaves here to go on and do some great things.”
Players’ families will be able to attend Saturday’s home finale, but will not be allowed on the court for Senior Day ceremonies due to COVID-19 protocols, Miller said.
Lee and senior guard Terrell Brown both have said they have not made a decision about returning next season, which they are allowed to do after the NCAA granted every winter athlete a free year of eligibility. They will make that decision after the season.
Kriisa likely to play vs. Washington
Miller is optimistic that freshman guard Kerr Kriisa will be able to play Saturday vs. Washington. He missed Thursday’s game with a groin injury he suffered in practice earlier in the week. Miller rested Kriisa so that he would not aggravate it.
Brown started in his place and stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, eight assists, five rebounds and a career-high four blocks.
“We need him,” Miller said of Kriisa. “It’s too much to ask to only play three guards or four guards. You need Kerr available. And as you guys know, Kerr has become a really big part of what we’re doing.”
Since becoming eligible on Feb. 4, Kriisa is averaging 5.8 points and 2.7 assists in 21.5 minutes while shooting 38 percent from 3. He has started four of the six games in which he has appeared.