Is Courtney Ramey the next Justin Kier? If that’s what Arizona wants from him, he’s ready to fill that role.
“I’m just gonna do wherever it takes to win,” Ramey told reporters Tuesday. “I feel like if Coach needs me on the ball, I can do that. Anything else, I can do that. I think I showed that throughout my career at Texas.”
Ramey, who picked the UA in June, comes to Tucson after four years with the Longhorns where he played in 128 games (106 starts) for two different coaches with two very different coaching styles. Now he’s joining a Wildcats program that, under Tommy Lloyd, was third nationally in scoring in 2021-22 but also one of the top defensive squads in Division I.
Along with Campbell transfer guard Cedric Henderson Jr., Ramey helps fill the void left by the departure of wings Bennedict Mathurin and Dalen Terry and the graduation of Kier, who like Ramey only had one season of eligibility left when he joined the program.
Ramey said he’s watched every UA game from last season and is familiar with what Kier did as Kerr Kriisa’s backup and, when Kriisa was out with an ankle injury, his fill-in.
“I saw his role, I felt like he did what he had to do for the team,” Ramey said. “I just think for myself, I’m gonna do the same thing. If it’s scoring, if it’s passing, if it’s playing defense I’m willing to do it all, just to win games.”
That jives with what Lloyd said in June about Ramey, noting that “Courtney is a guy that I think we’re gonna count on in a lot of things.
“A significant portion of the ball handling and decision making. I think he’s a guy that’s going to really add significant value defensively for us, and we’re we’re looking to kind of hitch our wagon to his experience and his grit. I think there’s going to be a lot of added value there. In the stuff that I did when I was kind of really looking into him, I loved his feel for the game. I think there’s some easy growth areas we can attack and really help him kind of make that next jump, but I mean, this is a guy I think we’re gonna count on to score, to distribute, really impact winning significantly every game.”
Ramey averaged 9.4 points per game last season, down from a career-high 12.2 in 2020-21. The latter was under Shaka Smart, a more offensive minded-coach whose 2021-22 squad at Marquette ranked 25th in adjusted tempo (Arizona was ninth), while last season he played in Chris Beard’s more plodding system that averaged 63.8 possessions per 40 minutes compared to 72.2 for the UA.
But while that slower tempo contributed to Ramey’s decreased offensive numbers, it also helped him become a better defender. His defensive rating (96.3) was was the best of his career and was slightly better than Kier’s 96.5.
Asked which type of play is bigger for a team, a score or a stop, Ramey chose the defensive one.
“It’s harder to stop a great offensive player,” he said. “I feel like when you can do that it just empowers the crowd and the team. Last year I had to adjust my role and be a better defender.”
His last game with Texas, a loss to Purdue in the NCAA Tournament, showed his impact beyond scoring. He had seven points on 3-of-11 shooting but added four rebounds, three assists, three steals and just one turnover in 32 minutes.
Ramey committed to Arizona after originally putting his name into the NBA Draft, but he withdrew on June 1. He said the Wildcats were “one of the school in the schools in the long run that I knew I was going to be interested in,” and it helped that he’d already been texting with Kriisa.
“Me and Kerr texted every day when I was going through the draft process,” he said. “Playing with him for the first time a couple of weeks ago, you can just see that we can do special things because we both can shoot the ball, we both can play on and off the ball. I just think it’s gonna be fun just to play games with him, just with his energy, I can just match that.”