Young Arizona team faces early season growing pains

28 Oct

Arizona freshman Nick Johnson was one of the few bright spots in Arizona's exhibition loss on Thursday.

By Justin Young
National Hoops Report

If you stayed up late to watch the amazing game 6 of the World Series, you may have caught the note that Arizona lost to Seattle Pacific in an exhibition game 69-68.

The preseason top 25 team is loaded with young talent and a roster that looks for its identity outside of the amazing Derrick Williams. Clearly, this wasn’t the start that anyone wanted in Tucson.

Defense, a Miller staple, and rebounding were the two major concerns coming out of a game the coach called “a learning experience.”

Miller told Bruce Pasco that he needs more than one rebound from his center Kyryl Natyazhko and Sidiki Johnson can’t foul out with just a rebound.

“That’s hard to win when you get one defensive rebound out of (the center position). So I wonder if Angelo Chol could maybe help there. Before tonight I wasn’t sure we needed to do that.”

Arizona will rely on it’s youth this season. However, the young Wildcats are still freshmen no matter where they were ranked coming out of high school. Several media outlets (not this one) have tabbed Josiah Turner as one of the premiere instant impact freshmen in America. Miller cautioned about that earlier in the week.

“The expectations on Josiah right now are almost ridiculous,” Miller told reporters. “People are talking about his future before he’s scored his first basket. One of the worst messages to give to a player in a college program is that college is a sentence (that you have to serve). Right now, our four freshmen know four plays, and haven’t even practiced into the double digits. Before any of their futures can be evaluated, our guys need to play their first game.”

Turner scored seven points and had four assists in the defeat.

Nick Johnson, the athletic guard from Findlay (Nev.), was the most impressive rookie on the night. He scored a team-high 18 points and hit three three-pointers off the bench. Johnson’s style of play is more Miller’s style. He’s aggressive and confident. The exhibition was certainly a nice start to the season.

“Nick did a great job and to me, he played in the game like he practices — one of the things we have to figure out is how to put him out there a little bit more,” Miller said. “And I think the more he plays the more comfortable he’ll get both on offense and defense.”

The Wildcats will be fine. Let’s be clear about that. But the kids will have to grow up fast. Arizona’s schedule is aggressive, to say the least. The team opens with two solid mid-major programs in Valpo and Duquesne. A trip to New York means a game against St. John’s and the winner of Texas AM and Mississippi State. San Diego State, New Mexico State, Florida (in Gainesville), Clemson, Gonzaga and Oakland are all on the schedule before the 2012 year.

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