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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Big things expected from men’s hoops’ twin towers

Tyler Baker
Layla Nicks / The Daily Wildcat Rick McCollum drives students around the Outer Campus Loop on the Cat Tran Friday Oct. 17, 2014. Rick usually works Thursdays and Fridays.

With about 14 feet of center, Arizona men’s basketball looks like it’s deep at the five.

After the Red-Blue Game, Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller praised both junior center Kaleb Tarczewski and freshman center Dusan Ristic.

“Kaleb’s our most improved player,” Miller said. “You didn’t really see it [Saturday], but in 10 practices, he might be our best player by how consistent he’s played. He’s a remarkable defensive player.”

Tarczewski scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 21 minutes on Saturday in the Red-Blue scrimmage. Ristic tallied 14 points to go with two rebounds, two steals and a block in 18 minutes, and was 7-for-8 from the field.

“Dusan is a great basketball player,” Tarczewski said. “He’s a big dude with long arms, and he’s really skilled. It’s really nice to be able to play against him every day.”

Ristic, like Tarczewski, is listed at 7 feet and 245 pounds. He is from Novi Sad, Serbia.

Tarczewski said Ristic brings a crafty European style, and practicing against him and junior forward Brandon Ashley will really help the junior center’s game.

“I think he’s going to be able to come in and help this team in ways that we really haven’t had before,” Tarczewski said. “Adding that second 7-footer — and obviously he’s a great basketball player — is really going to help us out.”

Miller said the coaching staff is excited about Ristic’s potential, and he just needs to catch up defensively.

“Dusan is ahead of the game on offense,” Miller said. “He has tremendous hands, he has a knowledge of how to score and free throw shooting, jump shots, hooks — he’s ahead of where you see normal frontcourt players.”

Depth Discussion

With five potential NBA draft picks, how many Wildcats will play is an early topic of discussion.

“I would be shocked if we didn’t have four or five players in double figures,” Miller said. “If we’re clicking, that’s how our offense should look.”

Miller said he isn’t sure yet how deep the Wildcats’ rotation will be, and that they might rotate the starting lineup.

“I think we can play pretty much eight to nine guys and that’s why it’s so competitive in practice, because it is tough to get 40 minutes in for eight to nine guys,” UA senior point guard T.J. McConnell said. “We could go small, we could go big.”

Top Cats

No wonder fans lined up at 5 a.m. to get into the Red-Blue Game.

Last week, Arizona was selected as the No. 2 team in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Second is Arizona’s highest preseason ranking since 2002, when the UA was No. 1. The Wildcats were No. 5 last season in the preseason poll.

Arizona has been ranked in the top five of the coaches poll for 22 straight polls, including at the No. 1 spot for eight weeks. Kentucky is No. 1 in the latest coaches poll.

Undefeated T.J.

Saturday’s scrimmage continued the early season trend that every team fifth-year senior McConnell plays on wins.

“At his position, he has total command on defense and on offense,” Miller said. “People come and watch us practice, they recognize how important a player he is to our team and how good he is.”

Miller, a former point guard, said McConnell is the first returning starting point guard he has ever had.

McConnell had eight points, six assists, three steals, one block and one rebound in 23 minutes in his red team’s 53-46 win.

“I thought it probably was as good as it gets,” McConnell said. “We have a long way to go; what college basketball team doesn’t have a long way to go eight practices in?”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter. 

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