Arizona Basketball 2009-10 Preview: It's Miller Time

Calvin W Boaz@Burrellfan1Correspondent IIOctober 27, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12:  Guard Nic Wise #13 of the Arizona Wildcats takes a shot as  Rihards Kuksiks #30 of the Arizona State Sun Devils defends during the Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at the Staples Center on March 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Head Coach: Sean Miller—First year at Arizona; 120-47 overall

Previous Season: 21-14; 9-9 Pac-10 (tied for fifth); lost to Louisville in NCAA round of 16

Departures: G David Bagga, F Chase Budinger, C Jordan Hill, G Zane Johnson, F Fendi Onobun

Additions: F Ross Davidson, F Solomon Hill, G Lamont Jones, C Kyryl Natyazhko, G/F Kevin Parrom, F Max Wiepking, F Derrick Williams, G Dondre Wise

After a tumultuous 2007-08 season with Kevin O'Neill coaching the team, Arizona was prepared to welcome Lute Olson back after a leave of absence. However, weeks before the season would commence, he announced his retirement, and Russ Pennell was named the interim head coach.

The Wildcats started off with a 9-3 mark that included wins over Gonzaga and Kansas. Conference play brought Arizona back to earth, losing five of its first seven Pac-10 games.

The stepping on of Chase Budinger's face by Houston's Aubrey Coleman sparked the Wildcats to a seven-game winning streak. Conversely, the team earned a controversial at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament after losing five of six contests. The Wildcats responded to the critics by defeating Utah and Cleveland State before losing to Louisville.

After initially turning down the position, Sean Miller decided to become the next head coach of the Wildcats.

Unlike Budinger and Jordan Hill, Nic Wise decided to say in school for his senior season. Despite getting a late start on the recruiting trail, Miller was able to secure a strong incoming class.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG Nic Wise, 5'10", 180 lbs., Sr. (15.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 45 FG%, 85 FT%)

There might not be a point guard in the country that is more important to the success of his team than Wise.

Not only does Wise probably have to lead the Wildcats in scoring, he also has to keep his teammates involved while logging extensive minutes. Being the only senior on the team, Wise's leadership skills are invaluable.

Wise can carry a team with his ability to drive to the basket and to make the long-range basket. Wise converted on 66 of his attempts from three-point range last season at a 42 percent success rate.

Wise displayed that he can perform at a high level on both ends of the floor by leading the Wildcats last year with 52 steals.

SG Kyle Fogg, 6'3", 185 lbs., So. (6.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 45 FG%, 79 FT%)

Fogg had a solid freshman season but will be looked upon to take a more active role in the offense this time around.

Fogg can score effectively in the paint and possesses a smooth release on his jump shot. He is also developing into a devastating defender.

SF Solomon Hill, 6'6", 230 lbs., Fr.

ESPNU ranked Hill as the 54th best recruit in the nation. He averaged 16.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists as a senior at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, CA.

Despite his large frame, Hill has the ability to break down defenders off the dribble.  He  is a unselfish player that plays the game in a similar vein as a point guard.

Hill is a strong rebounder for his size but needs to work on his jumper.

PF Jamelle Horne, 6'7", 215 lbs., Jr. (6.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 43 FG%, 64 FT%)

Nobody on the roster fits the mode of a typical power forward, so Horne will probably inherit the position by default at the beginning of the season.

Horne is long and athletic but is not much of a perimeter player. Horne will be looked upon to become a reliable second option for Arizona. He should become a successful scorer with the ability of Wise to push the ball up the court.

C Kyryl Natyazhko, 6'10", 255 lbs., Fr.

Originally from the Ukraine, Natyazhko averaged 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. rated him as the ninth best center prospect in the country.

Natyazhko is comfortable in both the low and high-post areas. He has the ability to turn and face the basket and can shoot effectively from 17 feet out.

Natyazhko does not possess the instincts to become an elite shot blocker and needs to play more aggressively on defense.

Other Contributors

F Ross Davidson 6'7", 225 lbs., Fr.

Davidson is joining the team as a walk-on. His main role this year will basically be in the role of a practice player. Davidson averaged 4.3 points for Junipero Serra Catholic High School in California as a senior.

C Alex Jacobson, 7'0", 245 lbs., So. (1.0 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 44 FG%, 57 FT%)

Jacobson appeared in 25 games and averaged 6.9 minutes per game last season. Since arriving on campus, he has worked on toning his body and becoming more fit.  

Because of Arizona's lack of size, Jacobson will be counted to play more minutes in the post but needs to display more aggressiveness on both ends of the floor.

G Lamont Jones, 6'0", 200 lbs., Fr.

Jones is a point guard with a score-first mentality. He averaged 21.3 points and 8.0 assists as a senior at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

Jones' body type is similar to that of former North Carolina guard Ty Lawson. He needs to improve his ball-handling since he appears to palm the basketball every time he dribbles.

Jones will back up Wise, but his time on the floor won't be long if he doesn't improve his shot selection.

G Garland Judkins, 6'3", 200 lbs., So. (2.4 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 40 FG%, 61 FT%)

Judkins is a fundamentally sound play that can substitute at either guard position. He is well-schooled at driving to the basket and possesses good ball skills.

G Brendon Lavender, 6'5", 205 lbs., So. (0.6 PPG, 0.3 APG, 0.2 RPG, 40 FG%, 63 FT%)

Lavender was a highly recruited player out of high school but didn't get much playing time last year. Lavender can score with either hand and has a quick burst when he is out in the open court. 

Lavender possesses a soft touch on his jump shot with a range of about 20 feet. He plays unselfishly and often makes the extra pass to set up teammates for easier shots.

G/F Kevin Parrom, 6'6", 205 lbs., Fr.

Parrom is an athletic player that excels in the open court and can finish with either hand. He was a McDonald's All-America nominee that averaged 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds as a senior at South Kent High School in Connecticut.

Parrom needs to improve his ball-handling skills as he tends to over-dribble.

F D.J. Shumpert, 6'7", 190 lbs., So. (0.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG)

Shumpert only appeared in only four games last season and did not score a point. However, he is known as a shot-blocker and averaged a triple-double in his senior year of high school.

F Max Wiepking, 6'6", 193 lbs., Fr.

Wiepking is from Englewood, CO and is joining Arizona as a walk-on. He averaged 19.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in his senior year for Kent Denver High School. For his exceptional efforts, Wiepking was selected second-team All-State and first team All-Conference.

F Derrick Williams, 6'8", 235 lbs., Fr.

Williams was ranked as the No. 72 overall prospect in the country by He has a solid physique with long arms and broad shoulders.

Once known only as a back-to-the-basket prospect, Williams can now score from the perimeter. However, he still needs to quicken his release on his jump shot.

G Dondre Wise, 6'1", 215 lbs., So.

Dondre is the younger brother of Nic Wise. Wise is a transfer from Pima Community College. He is known as a slasher who averaged 10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists as a freshman.

Key Games

Dec. 2 UNLV: Arizona lost to the Rebels last season and is looking for revenge.

Dec. 6 @ Oklahoma: The Wildcats face a tough test in their first true road game.

Dec. 28 @ BYU: Another tough test for the young Wildcats.

Dec. 31 @ USC: It is important that Arizona gets off to a quick start in conference play.

Feb. 21: Arizona State: The Wildcats lost to the Sun Devils three times last season.

Season Outlook

Coach Miller endeared himself to the fans early in his reign by converting a team that looked destined to finish near the bottom of the Pac-10 to a team that can now be competitive.

The recruiting class is strong, but the Wildcats will still suffer through growing pains. Nic Wise is a great leader, but he cannot do everything himself. The freshmen have to make an impact early for this team to be successful.

Miller has several options for his four-out, one-in offense. More importantly, he has to convince the players to buy into his man-to-man defense. Even while Olson was still the coach, the Wildcats had difficulty shutting down the better opponents.

It is doubtful that Arizona will finish ahead of California or Washington in the Pac-10 this season. It is equally unlikely that USC, Arizona State, or Stanford will be above the Wildcats. Beyond that, there is not much telling where Arizona will end up.

What the fans want most from this year's team is to see the Wildcats make their 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament.


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