Mark Lyons is not the point guard Arizona wants.
But he is the point guard Arizona needs.
As the senior heads into his final game at the McKale Center, he does so as one of the most polarizing players in school history.
When he was hitting the game-winner over Florida in December he was a breath of fresh air; when he was shooting the team out of the game at UCLA last week he was a walking disaster.
So what is he, really?
Something in between.
Arizona is known for producing point guards, and no doubt Lyons will never belong with the likes of Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Khalid Reeves, Jason Terry or Jason Gardner. But that’s fine.
Lyons, who joined Arizona for one season to play point guard for the first time, has had to adjust to a new school, new team and new position on the fly. It hasn’t been the smoothest of roads, but it’s one he and head coach Sean Miller were right to try and navigate.
Without Lyons, Miller had no one to play point guard. And without Miller, Lyons had nowhere to go to prove he could play the position. It was a match made in heaven. Sort of.
The truth is Arizona can win with Lyons. Hell, Arizona has won with Lyons. And who knows, Arizona may again win with Lyons.
At the very least, if they do win it will be because of the point guard.
Lyons’ “shoot-first” mentality is not one that fits the traditional point guard mold, but it is what the Wildcats need. Averaging a team-best 15.1 points per game on a team-most 11.3 attempts per contest, the guy certainly has a penchant for trying to score.
But that’s exactly what the Wildcats need from their point guard.
Past Arizona teams would have needed a distributor, but not this one.
For all the talent it boasts, this Arizona team lacks the one thing every other great one had: a go-to scorer.
Solomon Hill is a nice and talented player, but does not have a killer mentality. Nick Johnson can score at times, but is too inconsistent. Brandon Ashley, Kevin Parrom and Grant Jerrett have all shown flashes, but none of that group has the skill set necessary to be counted on when a big shot is needed.
Lyons does, and it’s paid dividends for Miller’s club before.
The Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe did an excellent job outlining Lyons’ season as well as providing quotes from Lyons and Miller.
In it, Miller says, “I mean, I don’t give a (expletive) what other people think about him” while Lyons says, “I knew it was going to be tough, but there’s no such thing as being successful with an easy route.”
The Wildcats, who are ranked 18th in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls, are 23-6 with an 11-6 record in the Pac-12. With one regular season game left before the postseason begins, Lyons’ story is not finished being written just yet.
The beginning was great, the middle not so much.
Let’s see how it ends.