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Tommy Lloyd in his comfort zone as Arizona begins preseason practice

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Call Tommy Lloyd the antithesis of Allen Iverson, because he loves talking about practice.

“I love coaching and teaching, that’s what I like doing,” Lloyd said Wednesday at Arizona’s annual Media Day event. “All the extra stuff can be a little bit much sometimes. A lot of extras come with a job like this but you know, to who much is given much is expected. I’m really excited to right now focus on on basketball, that’s the part that I love.”

Arizona began its preseason practice on Tuesday under Lloyd, who takes over the program after 12 years under Sean Miller’s guidance. The public will get their first glimpse of the new-look Wildcats on Saturday, during the Red-Blue Scrimmage at McKale Center, but Lloyd cautions that what will be on display that afternoon is a far cry from what will be seen when the regular season begins in November.

“It’s gonna be a great introduction to this team,” he said. “This team’s got a lot of personality, it’s got guys that are really excited to play for Arizona. I think they just want to get out in front of you guys, and the fans and, and play with great effort.

“Whatever happens Saturday is gonna be a great teaching tool for our staff to help the players with.”

Lloyd was hired on April 14 following 21 seasons as an assistant at Gonzaga. In the five-plus months since then he’s had to assemble a team—Arizona has added four transfers and two freshmen, with only five players back from last year’s 17-9 squad who played meaningful minutes—while also settling into being in charge of a program that the local community lives and dies by.

That’s not his cup of tea, he admits.

“I definitely want to be out in the community and connect with people and not be isolated,” he said. “I wanted to come down here and kind of just take my time and I wanted everything we did to be authentic, I wanted to be genuine. I wanted it to happen organically, a little bit. To me that was more important than coming down here and trying to spin a media campaign. My focus is going to make sure, when we’re on that court, we look and feel like a good Arizona basketball team. That’s 100% where my focus is going to go. I can’t promise you what that’s gonna look like every day, but that’s where I’m spending my energy right now. The marketing stuff will come.”

To that end, though, Lloyd said he won’t have the gold jersey, given to each week’s top practice player, which was regularly shown on the team’s Twitter account.

Those practices might not be as long as under Miller and other coaches, either.

“I don’t think I’m going to be known for long practices,” Lloyd said. “I think we were in and out in an hour and 45 (minutes), and I feel good about. But on top of that I expect the guys to watch film, come in on their own and shoot at night. Those are things that I think are really important. Our time together on the court, it’s gonna be fast, it’s gonna be quick hitting. I definitely have a way that I’m comfortable doing things, and I feel like it has a chance to be pretty successful.”

Lloyd opened the first half hour of Wednesday’s practice to media, during which time the Wildcats went through drills focusing heavily on rebounding and playing in transition. He said he’s installed his base offense and defense but much more needs to get put in before the Nov. 1, when Arizona hosts Chico State at McKale in its lone exhibition game.

“This week we are going to install a few things but they’re pretty minor,” Lloyd said. “For the most part it’s going to be reviewing the things we’ve already done, kind of hammering some things home. And then as we progress, week by week through October, we’ll install your zone offense, your zone defense, your presses, your press breaks, your special situations. But the way we play, it’s constant refinement to those, because within the whole there’s a bunch of little parts that you always have to kind of focus on and break down and teach. And then it seems like you fix one thing and then something else kind of starts giving out and you’ve gotta go do some maintenance on that. It’s what happens when you play this way, and so I feel good where we’re at, I do.”

Lloyd said he plans to play fast—where have we heard that before?—but considering he’s coming from a Gonzaga squad that ranked in the top 100 in adjusted tempo four of the previous five seasons, those words hold a lot more weight. Getting the players to fully buy into that approach is a different story.

“They all say say they want to play that way until you really make them play that way, in a real structured deal,” he said. “The reason I like to play fast is I think there’s a lot of advantages to it. I think you get a lot of easy scoring opportunities, and you’re not playing fast to the point where you’re playing out of control or turning the ball over, you’re playing fast to create the opportunities, and that’s the reason we play fast. I know that might be appealing to watch and everything, but that’s not the reason. The reason is because I think it’s the best way to win the most basketball games.”