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Kylan Boswell’s maturation and improvement belies his age, but not Tommy Lloyd’s plan

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-kylan-boswell-tommy-lloyd-freshman-foot-injury-pac12-2023 Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re looking for a drinking game to do during Arizona men’s basketball broadcasts during the postseason, just take a sip, swig or shot of your favorite beverage whenever someone mentions that Kylan Boswell is only 17.

Also, make sure you have your affairs in order beforehand.

The fascination with the age of Arizona’s backup freshman point guard has been a running joke this season, the UA version of “did you know quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick when to Harvard?” or “did you know Clayton Kershaw and Matthew Stafford were high school teammates?” He officially becomes an “adult” on April 18, a little more than two weeks after the 2022-23 season ends with the NCAA title game in Houston.

If Boswell were to help get the Wildcats into April for the Final Four, where they haven’t been since 2001, while still not being old enough to vote, it would be a tremendous accomplishment. And if not for a foot injury suffered last spring, this storyline wouldn’t be possible.

Not that Tommy Lloyd didn’t try.

“That was kind of the plan,” Lloyd said Monday on the Spears and Ali podcast. “They committed to us pretty early, to the point where we were able to have a lot of conversations to see what this year look like. I was hopeful he would come to us early, I thought that he would be ready.

“I made my pitch, and they didn’t buy it. They were still going to come to Arizona, but they wanted to wait one more year.”

Everything changed when Boswell got hurt while playing in the EYBL last April. The injury not only prevented him from being part of the US National Team in the U17 World Cup, it also caused he and his family to rethink their timeline.

He broke his foot, and then they kind of came back at us and said, hey, we don’t know what this looks like, how long it’s gonna take,” Lloyd said. “Maybe would it still be possible for him to come to you guys and maybe not even play much and just rehab it? So we went over that with them and so he ended up showing up early.”

By reclassifying to the 2022 recruiting class and joining Arizona in July, Boswell was able to heal up under the guidance of UA trainer Justin Kokoskie, who last March worked his magic to get Kerr Kriisa healthy enough to play only 10 days after a severe high ankle sprain. As for what Boswell would be expected to do in games, or even when, Lloyd now had a new plan.

“I just told Kylan ... I’m not really going to coach you much these first few months,” he said. “I’m just gonna kind of let you ease your way back into it, come off his foot injury, and just get a feel for what practice is like this level, and just kind of the day-to-day rhythms. I didn’t want to put too much on his shoulders. And then I told him, okay, we get to January 1, I’m going to start coaching you.”

Boswell played 23 minutes off the bench in Arizona’s season-opening win over Nicholls, scoring eight points and notching five assists. He had four points, five assists and two steals in 22 minutes against Southern, but then the next seven games saw him fail to score while averaging only six minutes.

“He got a few opportunities early and maybe had a good thing or two but had some struggles,” Lloyd said. “And what I didn’t want to do is I didn’t want to make him feel the weight of the world on his shoulders, cause this kid had never really struggled. I wanted him to taste it a little bit, a little success, a little struggle, and just had back off and just had to keep observing and then, come January 1 we started coaching him.”

Since the calendar turned to January, Boswell has averaged 18 minutes and is shooting over 50 percent from 2 and 42 percent from 3. He’s made 52 percent of his 3s since Feb. 1, averaging 8.1 points per game.

Again, part of Lloyd’s plan.

“I told him February 1st, I’m going to start coaching you as a real basketball player and not like a 17-year-old,” Lloyd said. “I wanted to take away the excuse like, oh he’s doing great, for a young guy. I’m going coach you like a real basketball player, like with high standards, like I need you to be an all-conference player in the future. Because that’s our plan for him.”

Lloyd didn’t say if there was another level to his plan specifically for March and beyond, but if there was it might have been something along the lines of:

  • Average 14 points per game
  • Make two-thirds of your 3s
  • Strip USC’s Boogie Ellis in the final minute of a road win to clinch the No. 2 seed
  • Win Pac-12 Freshman of the Week

Boswell is the first UA player to win Freshman of the Week since Azuolas Tubelis in March 2021, but that was as a starter. If he scores in double figures in Thursday’s Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal (against either Stanford or Utah) he’ll become the first Wildcat freshman with three straight games of 10-plus points off the bench since Bennedict Mathurin midway through the 2020-21 season before moving into the starting lineup.