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Justin Kier hopes to handle the ball, bring leadership to Arizona basketball

Virginia Commonwealth v George Mason Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Kier, pronounced KY-er, spoke to local media last Thursday after going through his second team workout in Tucson.

“Some of these guys have been here for at least a month or so, so they know a little bit more than me, but yeah I’m just trying to catch on and it’s getting there,” he said. “I’m getting in shape and stuff like that. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape right now, but I also want to maximize my stamina.”

Kier averaged 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals at Georgia last season, while shooting 37 percent from 3 and “playing some pretty solid perimeter defense,” according to our friends at DawgSports. Kier’s best season actually came in 2018-19 when he averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists at George Mason.

The Virginia native has spent most of his career playing the 2 and the 3. Kier said he entered the transfer portal in search of a school that would allow him to handle the ball more. Now a sixth-year senior, he believes he’s found that fit with Tommy Lloyd and Arizona, which was thin at point guard after losing Jemarl Baker Jr. and All-Pac-12 talent James Akinjo to transfer.

Kier will likely share point guard duties with Kerr Kriisa and Utah transfer Pelle Larsson.

“I think genuinely he cares about his players, and coming from Gonzaga he’s got a winning culture,” Kier said of Lloyd. “On top of that, he’s coached a lot of great players, a lot of great guards. So I trusted that and I’m excited to hopefully be on the ball a little bit and play point a little bit. Now, point guard doesn’t mean you have the ball in your hands 24/7. It means sometimes you start it (the offense), sometimes you don’t. We got a lot of great guards here too, so I’m just excited to get those reps in. I’m an older guy so I’ve been in this game a long time. Just got to get adjusted to the system and then we’ll get rolling.”

Though new to Arizona, Kier is by far the most seasoned player on the roster. Other than center Christian Koloko—a junior—Arizona’s other scholarship players are freshmen and sophomores. Once Kier gets settled in, he envisions being a leader on this young team.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I feel like any team I go to—doesn’t matter who, how young—I know I’m gonna always speak my voice and communicate and be positive. I think being positive, being encouraging, encouraging people to get in the gym, encourage people to be the best they can be is how you’re going to build a winning culture and build that bond with people. I’m not sugarcoating anything and that’s what I’m going to do wherever I go, so I hope to do that here. I hope the guys trust me enough to do that with my experience.”

Lloyd also said Kier adds personality and “pizzazz” to the team.

“He’s really outgoing,” Lloyd said. “He had a great career George Mason and was really well coached and had a good season at Georgia last year and I think we’re gonna be, hopefully, the recipient of some of his best basketball.”

Kier also views Arizona as a prime spot to build his pro stock and benefit from the new rules that allow student-athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness. He recently launched his own brand and clothing line, though he acknowledged that “I’m not very much known” in Tucson.

“That’s the goal—to [build my pro stock], come here, win, build a great bond here with the community and the school,” Kier said. “And now with NIL, it’s a better opportunity for us to really get into the community and do something good for Tucson.”