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Arizona’s Sean Miller believes Kerr Kriisa can be a difference maker

Count longtime Arizona head coach Sean Miller as a big-time believer in guard Kerr Kriisa’s potential in Tucson.

Miller discussed the 6-foot-3 Estonian guard’s impact on the team during a press conference on Tuesday.

He said that Kriisa, who missed the Wildcats’ first 17 regular season games because of eligibility concerns, was a difference maker on the team’s mountain road trip last week.

“I don’t think Kerr could have done a better job than he did on our last trip,” Miller said. “Very difficult circumstances which I’ve talked a lot about. He came in and he impacted both of our games in a positive manner.”

The freshman guard’s main impact in games against Utah and Colorado was in his ability to set screens for teammates on offense, combined with his effort on the defensive end of the court, Miller added.

Another contribution in Miller’s opinion was Kriisa’s willingness to absorb contact on defense, drawing a pair of charges on the two-game road trip.

“He took two charges, our team this year, we are a subpar defensive group trying to get better,” Miller said. “We’ve had it at times, but for the most part our defense isn’t good enough.

“We’ve only taken 12 charges this year, which I think would be about as low as any team that we’ve had.”

Miller said Kriisa’s impact is difficult to quantify off a score sheet alone, as the guard’s shooting is not in game shape as of yet.

He believes that Kriisa, who connected on 1-of-6 field goal attempts in 35 minutes of action in the two road games, adds a needed element to the Wildcats’ rotation.

Kriisa was a high-point on an otherwise dreary road trip that saw the Wildcats fall to the Utes and Buffaloes by a combined margin of 18 points, Miller added.

“Against Utah, he drew a charge right in front of their bench which was really a hard play,” Miller said. “But we don’t really have guys that do that, and he gives us that ingredient. He’s charismatic, he’s emotional in a very good way. He a very good teammate, and he competes on both ends, on defense and on offense.

“And I think his shooting will eventually come to the forefront – though that’s probably the most difficult thing to really feel comfortable getting good looks and shooting the ball.”

The longtime head coach believes that Kriisa represents a definite silver lining on what was otherwise a difficult weekend for the Wildcats.

Kriisa’s playing time will likely increase in the weeks ahead, as the Wildcats face off against Oregon State and Oregon in Tucson this week, Miller said.

“He’s going to continue to be in the role that he had and incrementally add to that role — where maybe it’s an extra four minutes, from 18 to 22,” Miller said. “Maybe it’s even more based on how he’s performing and how the game is.

“But he’s really doing a good job under some difficult circumstances and I think we’re thrilled as a team to have him available.”


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