TUCSON — Allonzo Trier was tentative at times early in the season, unsure of when to turn it on, when to defer to his talented teammates.
It’s the same dilemma Arizona’s other star freshmen faced under coach Sean Miller.
They all figured it out and now, it seems, so has Trier.
Following the path Derrick Williams, Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson had before him, Trier has started to assert himself after a monthlong feeling-out process in his first season with the 13th-ranked Wildcats.
“Eventually, you come to it with all these guys,” Miller said. “As you learn who they are, a trust starts to develop. And once we see they are really working hard to do what we ask of them, it’s just a matter of time.”
Trier was one of the nation’s top recruits out of Nevada’s Findlay Prep, an athletic, 6-foot-6 guard with good range and a knack for getting to the rim.
He won two gold medals while playing for Miller on Team USA under-19 and under-18 teams, so player and coach knew each other well before he arrived in Tucson.
Like all freshmen, Trier had an adjustment period once he got to Arizona, both with college life and fitting in at one of the nation’s elite programs.
Trier had a forgettable debut, scoring eight points on 1-of-10 shooting with more turnovers than assists against Pacific. He bounced back, scoring 22 points, but started to become tentative during the Wooden Legacy tournament, scoring five points in consecutive games.
Seeing his talented freshman needed a boost, Miller sat down and talked with him before the final game in Southern California. Miller told him to be free, don’t worry about missing a shot or coming out of the game, that he was giving him a longer rope.
The discussion had an immediate impact on Trier. In three games since, he’s scored 54 points on 19-of-26 shooting, including a 27-point game in a win over Fresno State on Wednesday, the most by an Arizona freshman since Williams had 28 in 2009.
“I felt like Coach had a lot of confidence in me,” Trier said. “Anytime somebody tells you that you can go out there and be yourself, do what you do best, it feels good. It allows you to be comfortable.”
Trier’s work ethic and willingness to learn were big reasons Miller was comfortable giving the freshman more leeway.
“The thing I love about Allonzo is he’s the hardest worker I’ve ever been around,” Miller said. “No one is in the gym earlier, no one stays longer, and no one is more consistent than him.”
Trier’s work ethic has helped him make huge improvements on defense, which has led to more playing time.
Offense has never been a problem.
Trier is Arizona’s third-leading scorer headed into Sunday’s game against Missouri at 13 points per game. He’s shooting 53 percent from the field and 81 percent on free throws, including a 14-for-14 performance against Bradley that was second-best in school history for made free throws without a miss.
Though he’s just 7 for 25 on 3-pointers so far, Trier has a smooth jumper and deep range. He’s also superb at getting to the rim and finishing, using his strength and body control to score even when there’s contact.
“When he’s in the open court, he’s a freight train coming at the rim,” Miller said.
And, after the talk with Miller, he’s back on track.
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