Lute Olson always said when he was coaching that the biggest change for players was between their first and second years. They would finish their freshmen season and begin working toward the future, knowing exactly what they needed to do. Sean Miller hopes, as he opens his second season at the helm of Arizona Wildcat basketball, that the program takes just as much of a giant step forward from last year’s pedestrian 16-15 record.
Miller knew when he came to Arizona that there was a long, hard road of recovery ahead. He had enormous shoes to fill as Olson’s replacement. A big enough challenge in and of itself. But, the greater difficulty was restocking a team that was losing two NBA draftees (Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger) while having missed more than a whole year of recruiting. Many coaches would have been tempted to pass on this sketchy scene. But not Sean Miller. He embraced both the storied history of the program and the potential of launching it into its promising future.
Miraculously, Miller and his staff have pulled together two solid recruiting classes that brought in 8 talented players who are the foundation for what’s ahead. Derrick Williams, the 2009-10 Pac-10 Freshmen of the Year, returns to anchor the middle of the Wildcats attack. Playing with a high basketball IQ, Williams led the team last year in scoring (15.7 ppg), rebounding (7.1 rpg) and field goal percentage (.574). Shooting Guard Kyle Fogg, the team’s second leading scorer (13.4 ppg), is ready for a breakout season. Miller says that Fogg has added 10 pounds of muscle and is making strides in becoming a lock-down, on-ball defender. For the Cats to jump back into the mix in Pac-10 play, they will also need for Lamont Jones (PG), Jamelle Horne (PF), Solomon Hill (SF) and Kevin Parrom (SF) to each elevate their games as well.
Miller has already indicated that two particular areas of improvement that will determine playing time will be Offensive Rebounding and 2Pt Field Goal Defense. Statistically, the Wildcats were one of the worst teams in the nation in these two critical categories.
It takes time for a new coach to implement his system and recruit players to fit his philosophy. Sean Miller has accomplished an enormous amount towards re-establishing the foundation for Arizona Basketball. With a moderate early season schedule and a wide-open Pac-10, Miller and the Wildcats may be ready to pounce again.