ARIZONA BASKETBALL

Kylan Boswell, Arizona face decisions after Sweet 16 loss to Clemson

Mar 29, 2024, 11:04 AM

Arizona Wildcats point guard Kylan Boswell...

Kylan Boswell #4 of the Arizona Wildcats looks on from the bench during the first half of a game against the Clemson Tigers in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Crypto.com Arena on March 28, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Kylan Boswell at one point looked like the only certainty for the Arizona Wildcats beyond the 2023-24 season, and if he wasn’t, it was because a developmental leap secured his entrance into the 2024 NBA Draft.

After Arizona’s Sweet 16 loss to the Clemson Tigers on Thursday, Boswell’s future with the Wildcats looks far from certain.

“A rollercoaster would probably be the word I’d say” to describe his season, Boswell said after the NCAA Tournament loss, according to AZDesertSwarm.com. “Highs and lows, it’s part of basketball. This summer I’ve got to change a lot of habits. Get more locked in on my mental (side) and body, for sure, and just prepare for whatever comes next in my life.”

That last bit of uncertainty might raise eyebrows. Unless you’ve observed the Wildcats for the entire year.

Boswell’s tenure at Arizona began when he was an early enrollee last season, who jumped to college as he rehabbed an injury thinking it would ignite and accelerate his career. Head coach Tommy Lloyd put low expectations on him then, and Boswell looked years older than 17 to reward the trust.

But taking over as starting point guard revealed flaws this season.

Boswell averaged 9.6 points and 3.6 assists per game, showing flashes of physical defense that he had used to build a role on the U-19 United States team over last summer. In June, he was considered by ESPN as a lottery prospect for the 2024 draft.

The college regular season sank that possibility.

Boswell in six November games shot a blistering 56% overall and 59% from three, but the overall percentages each of the next four months were 32%, 33%, 45% and then 35%.

To end the year, it was backup point guard Jaden Bradley coming off the bench to become Arizona’s best player. Bradley scored 12 points and added three blocks, three steals and two assists without a turnover in 27 minutes against Dayton in the second round of the Big Dance, with his ball handling breaking down the Flyers’ pressing defense.

Then came Thursday, when Bradley scored 18 points to go with two blocks, three assists and three rebounds.

Boswell scored five points or less in four of the last five games of the year, with the exception of a 20-point, eight-assist outing to open the NCAA Tournament against Long Beach State.

He lived and died by his jump shot all year and struggled to attack off the bounce with hips and shoulders pointed at the rim. Meanwhile, Bradley thrived by using his shake to control the pace on offense.

To that point: Boswell got to the rim on just 20% of his shot attempts, according to Hoop-Math.com. He took more than half of his 8.8 attempts from three.

Bradley took 49% of his shots at the rim and had a free throw-to-field goal attempt rate of 40% to Boswell’s 13%, per Hoop-Math.com.

By advanced metrics from basketball analyst Evan Miyakawa, Bradley was the Wildcats’ most important player on a per-possession basis, and much of that had to do with his defense.

All of that frames this coming situation: Boswell, who by every public observation has a strong but complicated relationship with Lloyd, is at a crossroads.

It’s arguable that Arizona was at its best when Boswell and Bradley played together. Let’s also understand that it’s probably not the most ideal backcourt for Lloyd, who likes his traditional lineups.

Either way, every bit of evidence points to the Wildcats needing to get more time with Bradley at point guard — this is assuming he doesn’t hit the transfer portal again after joining Arizona from Alabama. That would be an essential demotion for Boswell.

And the way things work these days, that puts Boswell’s future with Arizona in question.

“For me, (Lloyd) means everything,” Boswell said Thursday after the Clemson loss. “Brought me in, 17 (years old), he’s helped mold me as a basketball player and as a human being. He’s instilled a lot of belief in me as point guard of this team.

“It’s kinda just hard when you go out there and (the shot) just doesn’t fall. You kinda want to give it your all as a player, point guard of this team. Really frustrated with tonight. I know me and him are going to talk when we get home, figure stuff out. But he’s helped me tremendously in my life.”

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