Not content with adding the nation’s third-best recruiting class, Arizona coach Sean Miller also brought in one of the country’s most talented transfer players in Mark Lyons. The former Xavier standout becomes the immediate leader in the Wildcats’ backcourt, where he’ll take over the point guard duties from the departed Josiah Turner.
Lyons brings a lot to the table for an Arizona squad with high hopes and a No. 12 preseason ranking, but these are the three areas where he’ll make his presence felt the most strongly:
Putting points on the board is Lyons’ specialty, and it’ll be a welcome ability on a team that didn’t get the scoring it hoped for from last year’s backcourt. Even playing alongside shot-hungry Tu Holloway, Lyons averaged 15.1 points per game for Xavier a season ago.
Lyons is also a serious three-point threat (.392 from long range last year), and he’ll have plenty of opportunities on this season’s Wildcats. By forcing the defense to spread out and cover the three-point arc, he’ll open up scoring chances inside for Grant Jerrett and the other low-post playing freshmen.
Lyons will provide a noticeable upgrade to what had been an iffy defensive group on the perimeter. His 1.3 steals per game would have led last year’s Wildcats, whose top two ball hawks (Kyle Fogg and Josiah Turner) are gone anyway.
Lyons, now a senior, is only likely to get better as an individual defender, mainly for the fact that he’ll face more favorable matchups. His 6’1”, 200-pound frame made him an undersized shooting guard, but at the point he’ll actually have the size advantage against some Pac-12 foes.
3. Floor leadership
This is the one area in which Lyons—a career shooting guard—is being asked to contribute something he hasn’t demonstrated in the past. Playing mostly off the ball a year ago, he posted a worrisome assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.3.
However, Lyons is an adept ball-handler, and the attention his own scoring ability commands will help open up defenses.
He’ll also have a couple of major advantages he didn’t have with the Musketeers—Pac-12 defenses aren’t generally as strong as those in the Atlantic 10, and he now has multiple go-to scoring options down low in Kaleb Tarczewski and his classmates.