In the bench we trust (w/ Video)

Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Wildcats took on the Western New Mexico Mustangs in an NCAA basketball game at McKale Memorial Center on Tuesday November 10, 2009. Final Score: Arizona 96, Western New Mexico 55

Colin Darland

Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Wildcats took on the Western New Mexico Mustangs in an NCAA basketball game at McKale Memorial Center on Tuesday November 10, 2009. Final Score: Arizona 96, Western New Mexico 55

Bryan Roy

There comes a point when bodies become depth.

It takes some coaches longer than others to trust their fragile young guns in the real world of 20-minute intervals.

UA basketball head coach Sean Miller doesn’t have too many other options but to embrace his deck of cards getting deeper by the day. In Sunday’s 87-70 win against NAU, Miller held true to his word when he said nine to 10 guys would see some playing time.

But everybody wondered if guys Nos. 8 through 10 could hold up their end of the deal.

UA sophomore Brendon Lavender collected dust last year under then-interim head coach Russ Pennell. He wasn’t alone. Only seven players saw regular playing time in a rigid, predictable structure — The Big Three of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise played at least 36 minutes every game, barring foul trouble.

On Sunday, Lavender played 28 minutes. He wasn’t alone. Eight of the 10 guys played at least 17 minutes in a box score that dished out playing time more freely than Costco samples.

“”Last year was a 1-2-3 kind of thing. The Big Three type deal,”” UA forward Jamelle Horne said. “”As I said, we have guys last year who weren’t given the opportunity. This year, like I said at the beginning, I said versatility.””

Drawing comparisons to last season’s team seems unfair given the complete overhaul in players. But it definitely proves there’s a new boss in town developing raw athleticism beyond the pace of either past two interims.

On Sunday, freshman Solomon Hill scored a team-high 17 points. Freshman Derrick Williams added eight points.

Garland Judkins, who is a sophomore by technicality after spending the majority of last season suspended, looked sharp with his footwork on defense. And freshman Kyryl Natyazhko could’ve passed off as would-be UA sophomore Jeff Withey (he transferred to Kansas after Lute Olson retired last season).

While roles are far from finalized — or even developing for that matter — it’s clear that everything is unclear.

And for once in Arizona’s recent history, unclear is a good thing.

“”I feel it’s different this year because these guys, not to say we weren’t mature, but it seems like (this year’s freshmen) are on a different level,”” Lavender said in comparison to his freshman season. “”They’re way more mature. Way more focused. I’m not sure if it has to do with coaching, but they’re really focused and they’re doing really good.””

Miller’s style makes it impossible to rely on the starting lineup to carry the burn of 35-plus minutes.

This is not Kevin O’Neill’s anemic half-court offense (see: 2007-08).

This is not Pennell’s zone defense (see: 2008-09).

It’s crucial in Miller’s beehive-busy offense and man-to-man, zero-airspace defense to have fresh legs. And it’s crucial to earn trust.

“”That’s how we’re going to do it,”” Miller said. “”To demand effort defensively, it’s hard not to give guys a sub.””

Don’t even rule out UA sophomore Alex Jacobson, a guy who averaged just seven minutes in the games he got to play last season.

“”I was disappointed I didn’t get Alex in the game,”” Miller said in a quote you’d be more likely to see in The Onion from prior coaches. “”There will be some games where he plays more than others.

“”Our lineup is one that could change throughout the course of the year,”” Miller added. “”It’s certainly far from being in cement.””

The cement may never dry.

— Bryan Roy can be reached at

media@wildcat.arizona.edu