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What is Arizona getting in Justin Kier? A Georgia expert weighs in

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Georgia v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats continued their overhaul of their roster by adding Georgia transfer Justin Kier, a sixth-year senior.

The 6-foot-4 guard started 25 games for the Bulldogs last season, averaging 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals per contest. The Virginia native shot 39.4 percent from the field, 36.6 percent from 3 and 75 percent from the free throw line.

We caught up with our friends at DawgSports.com for some more insight on Kier. Here is what they had to say.

AZDS: What were the expectations for Justin Kier at Georgia and how did he live up to them?

DS: Kier came to Georgia after three years as a starter at George Mason, including earning second team All-Atlantic 10 as a junior. Consistent guard play had been a missing ingredient for Tom Crean’s first two Georgia teams, so it was expected that Kier’s veteran presence and leadership would help the Bulldogs cut down on turnovers and avoid some of the late game missteps which had dogged the team. With Anthony Edwards gone to the NBA, UGA fans hoped Kier’s 95 career college starts would provide, if not the same electric scoring threat, at least a steady veteran presence to integrate in the backcourt with some solid returning players like point guard Sahvir Wheeler.

Things did not get off to a great start. Kier was arrested in October in nearby Gwinnett County following an incident in which he was clocked at over 90 miles an hour through a construction zone and passing other vehicles on the grass median before finally being stopped after a chase across two counties.

Once the season actually began, Kier had an up-and-down year. On the bright side, he started 25 games and averaged 31.0 minutes per contest, indeed providing those veteran minutes Georgia needed. On the downside, he proved to be a bit of a streaky shooter (kind of a running theme in Athens in 2020-21), and didn’t get to the free throw line very often. His 9.5 points per game weren’t bad, and his three point shooting was the catalyst for some of the Red and Black’s best basketball of the season.

AZDS: What was Kier’s role at Georgia?

DS: Essentially Kier was brought in to play the point until sophomore Sahvir Wheeler was ready to assume that role, and to slide over to the two guard if Wheeler was reliable at the one. Ultimately Wheeler had a fantastic year at the point, even recording the first triple double in program history. So Kier spent time at the two launching a good number of shots, and playing some pretty solid perimeter defense.

AZDS: Why did Kier transfer?

DS: Officially Kier’s statements make it sound like he was looking for a chance to grow as a basketball player in his final year of eligibility. Certainly location wasn’t a factor for a guy from Virginia, or he wouldn’t have transferred even further away from home. I just don’t think Georgia was the program he thought it was when he committed in April 2020.

Unofficially, I suspect that like over half the UGA basketball roster, including four starters, he wanted to get the heck away from Tom Crean. Certainly the transfer portal has created a new dynamic in college basketball. But rumblings emerged late in the season that the Bulldog basketball team was, if not in open revolt, miffed at some of Crean’s tactics and public statements in which he seemed to be throwing players under the bus for not executing in losses that clearly had a significant tactical component.

AZDS: What are Kier’s strengths?

DS: Kier’s biggest strength is probably his ability to score from outside. For example, he hit 6 of 11 threes in a January overtime loss to LSU in which he scored a season-high 25 points. He also played some solid defense, including averaging 1.7 steals per outing.

AZDS: What are Kier’s weaknesses?

DS: His shooting can be a bit streaky. For example in Georgia’s second round SEC Tournament loss to Mizzou Kier was only 2 of 9 from the field, yet somehow perfect on 3 pointers. He missed all 7 non-three shots on the day. The two games leading into the tournament (against South Carolina and a stout Alabama squad) he’d shot 80% from the field. That however followed not one, but two 1 of 10 efforts in the prior two games. In short, Kier shot right at 30% from the field to end the season, but he did so in wildly unpredictable ways.

On the bright side he shot a reliable 75% from the free throw line for the year. On the downside, his perimeter game never seemed to quite jibe with Crean’s slashing up-tempo style that suited Anthony Edwards so perfectly, and he only got to the line about 1.5 times per game. For a team that relies on the transition game and up-tempo basketball, that’s not getting the job done.

AZDS: Arizona doesn’t have much point guard depth. Is that a position you could see him playing at times?

DS: He can certainly play the point if called upon. Georgia was fortunate to have Wheeler emerge as a bona fide all-conference candidate at the position (who then transferred to Kentucky after the season, but that’s our problem not yours).

AZDS: What would be the best role for Kier?

DS: Ideally Kier would play some at both the one and two, serving as the low turnover, steady performer who leads the scoring effort on the nights when he can. What nights will that be? No one knows for sure.

AZDS: How should Arizona fans feel about this pickup?

DS: It occurs to me that some of the above answers may sound a bit cynical. But I want to be clear, if Justin Kier had wanted to come back to Georgia I think our basketball team would be better for it. He’s a guy who played solid, effort defense, hustles for rebounds, and can light up the scoreboard when he’s on. I don’t expect him to be the team MVP, but if he can get in the right role he can definitely make the Wildcats better.