Consider it addition by subtraction when you are watching
the University of Arizona Wildcats tip off the season this
The subtractions are easy to notice and would shatter most
teams. Once the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament
turned off on an unprecedented run by the Wildcats by the
Kemba Walker-powered Connecticut Huskies, star forward
Derrick Williams declared for the NBA Draft. When Williams
hired an agent he also forfeited his eligibility to return
ending the fairytale run of the Wildcats into a distant
Williams was a force all season accounting for 25.5% of
the teams scoring and 23.8% of the rebounding. More
importantly Williams was the go-to-guy down the stretch on
offense and defense routinely hitting big shots, pulling
down clutch rebounds and swatting away the competition in
the paint, just ask Darnell Gant (Washington) and Wesley
Of equal importance the Wildcats suffer another loss in
sophomore point guard Lamont “Momo” Jones after he
transferred to Iona University. Although he is not as big
of a statistical loss to the Wildcats, Jones was the vocal
leader who was instrumental in their great season.
The bottom line is between the loss of Williams and Jones,
the Wildcats are losing 38.1% of the scoring, 28.3% of
their rebounding, 25.3% of their assists and the best two
players on a team that made it to the Elite Eight.
Now comes the addition.
A few key players return who played well during the season
and tournament run in Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse
Perry. All three will be relied upon to be leaders since
the other seniors on the team played 10.7 MPG (Brandon
Lavender), 4.5 MPG (Alec Jacobson) and 2.9 MPG (Dondre
Last season Fogg took a hit in offensive production, but
it was a conscious effort as he took the challenge of
being the team’s defensive stopper each and every night.
He saw his points go down 3 PPG (from 11.1 to 8.1) from
his sophomore year to his junior year, a number that is
very likely to increase again with an expanded role. Coach
Miller has addressed Fogg about this coming seasons role,
“he definitely has told me that I need to more aggressive
this year on the offensive end, within the offense.”
In addition to Fogg stepping up the Wildcats will need
junior forward Hill to be a leader on both ends of the
court. Hill is the most talented returning player and will
need to continue the momentum he created in the impressive
Elite Eight run from last year. Solomon described his
teammate, “he doesn’t really get enough love. He does
things day-in-and-day-out that most guys don’t do once. He
guarded Nolan Smith (Duke) and played Kemba Walker the
next day and is our defensive stopper at 6-2.”
If you look beyond those returning you will see a very
deep and talented team from top-to-bottom. The incoming
freshmen are rivaled by very few teams this season.
Nick Johnson is a bouncy guard that can shoot lights out.
He is a “crazy athlete that can jump out of the gym and is
always having fun” per Fogg.
Josiah Turner is a quiet, but heady point guard that can
make anyone he plays with better. According to Fogg Turner
is “humble, quiet and listens with a great head on his
Johnson and Turner played together before in 2010 for the
Drew Gooden Soldiers so familiarity is already there. They
are a unique blend of talent and bring different
personalities to the table which bodes for a unique locker
room and good team chemistry.
Other newcomers Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol add
toughness and rebounding to the table. Those two will have
a role from day one helping with the dirty work so the
natural scorers can shine.
When you combine the perimeter of Fogg, Johnson, Turner,
Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes with the big men like Hill,
Johnson, Chol, Perry, Jacobson and Kyryl Natyazhko you
have depth. Not one star and his role players, a deep and
talented roster ready to surprise people for a second
straight year. No matter who starts or who comes off the
bench, Coach Sean Miller has a hockey team where the
second line can step in and fill the void.
Fogg described the team balance as, “more of a spread
scoring team with a bunch of guys averaging 10+ points
opposed to one guy averaging 20 points.”
Set the DVR or be on your couches for the Coaches vs.
Cancer in New York against St. John’s (Nov. 17th) and
either Mississippi State or Texas A&M (Nov. 18th). Big
non-conference games at Florida (Dec. 7th), at home verse
Gonzaga (Dec. 17th) and of course the conference rivalries
facing Washington, UCLA and Arizona State.
With a watered down conference that welcomes Utah and
Colorado to form the new PAC-12 the opportunity is there
for another run for the Wildcats, but this year it should
not be surprising.