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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


In the bench we trust

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona mens basketball team opened their season against Idaho State in McKale Center Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010, in Tucson, Ariz. The Cats rolled to a 90-42 victory.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona men’s basketball team opened their season against Idaho State in McKale Center Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010, in Tucson, Ariz. The ‘Cats rolled to a 90-42 victory.

Don’t expect Max Wiepking to be drilling 3-pointers on a nightly basis, but Arizona head coach Sean Miller believes a 43-point bench effort from Sunday’s victory isn’t the last he’ll see from his reserves.

Led by Brendon Lavender’s 12 points, all by way of 3-pointers, the season opener for the Arizona men’s basketball team not only hinted that the Wildcats could go 10 players deep — it made Miller admit such.

“”In given games, there will be players coming off the bench who can impact the win as much as somebody who starts,”” Miller said. “”That’s not my decision to do that; it’s really what we watch everyday in practice.””

The most obvious advantage was the Wildcat’s using 10 players before five minutes had elapsed in the game. Such waves of substitutions helps the defensive energy remain high when the starters return, Miller said.

He credited junior college transfer Jesse Perry’s eight-point, five-rebound performance to the flurry that aided the Wildcats in mounting the route. He also singled out Lavender, who went 4-for-5 shooting from 3-point range, as an example of how close in talent the Wildcat bench is compared to the starters.

“”That lack of confidence once in a while that we maybe have seen his first two years,”” Miller said, “”I haven’t seen that very often in practice this year. Not only did he shoot the ball and it went in, just the way he played, he looked the same (as in practice).””

The win was by far the biggest win in the Sean Miller era and he emptied the bench with walk-ons Wiepking, Dondre Wise and Robert Arvizu. Wiepking saw his first game action of his career after not playing during his freshman season. He hit a 3-pointer from the left wing just 14 seconds after entering the game for Arizona.

“”It was a good feeling,”” said starting forward Solomon Hill of watching the bench play. “”We didn’t have to play the whole game. It felt good to get the guys in, get them experience in the game.

“”And it felt good to put (Idaho State) away.””

Winning recruits

Miller praised the winning background of his 2011 men’s basketball signing class on Thursday, a day after his three-man recruiting class signed letters of intent at Arizona.

Point guard Josiah Turner, combo guard Nick Johnson and forward Sidiki Johnson gave their official commitment to the Wildcats on Wednesday, the first day of the 2011 signing period. All three are ranked in the Top-75 players of the 2011 class.

“”Every tournament, every camp, for all 12 months … they’ve played the very best players,”” Miller said.

Experience against the country’s best is what Miller has credited to the cool-headed play of current freshman Jordin Mayes, who played at California basketball power Westchester High School.

Turner, out of Sacramento High School in California, Nick Johnson, from Findlay Prep in Nevada, and Sidiki Johnson, from powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, all knew each other before they committed, but Miller said he believed their commitments weren’t heavily swayed by their friendship.

He added that Turner and Nick Johnson played together on the Oakland Soldiers AAU team. Their chemistry and experience in competition was good reason to believe that all three will have significant impact at Arizona in their freshman year.

Miller describes the 6-foot-3 Turner as a pass-first, “”pure point guard.””

Like Turner, the 6-foot-2 Nick Johnson, who is originally from Gilbert, Ariz., is an explosive player who could become an elite defender, Miller said. Dave Telep, senior basketbal recruiting analyst, said the backcourt duo will be the most athletic in the Pacific 10 Conference, should they start.

Miller called the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Sidiki Johnson an “”old-school, power player.””

“”He rolls his sleeves up,”” Miller said.

Divvying the minutes at point

Momo Jones is not under any pressure to lose his job.

Despite recording the same stat-line as freshman backup Jordin Mayes — six points, four rebounds — Jones is much further along on the defensive end, and that’s not to mention his leadership role. He also took care of the ball, posting just one turnover.

Still, Mayes has earned a good chunk of minutes.

“”Jordin (Mayes) on offense is really smooth for being such a young player,”” Miller said.

“”I think Momo will play a little bit more,”” he added. “”That split won’t be (as big as) 35-5 (minutes) or 32-8. Jordin Mayes deserves … to play some.””

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