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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA men’s basketball team lost to Seattle Pacific on October 27, 2011 at University of Arizona’s McKale Center.

No. 12 Arizona’s home exhibition game against Division-II Humboldt State tonight at 6:30 p.m. marks the official start of the Wildcats’ season. More importantly, though, it provides the first chance for players to establish their roles on the team.

“One of [the] things that I’m really curious to see from an attitude and team chemistry perspective [is] role definition,” head coach Sean Miller said. “How players accept the role that they’ve earned — not been given — but role that they’ve earned through their performance that started a long time ago.”

The position of team leader has already been earned by senior Solomon Hill, both through his Pac-12 All-Conference season last year and his weekly performances in practice.

But every other position is still relatively in flux. Five players are battling for the two starting guard roles while the three freshmen big men and sophomore Angelo Chol will share time at power forward and center.

Considering only Hill has a solidified starting spot on the 10 player-deep roster, a few players may see a reduction of game time or even a spot far down on the bench.

“It’s that depth every day that puts players in certain positions,” Miller said. “Five guys start and there’s a reason. Eight guys play more minutes than maybe two others, maybe a certain player doesn’t play — there’s a reason.”

The exhibition game will be the first time the entire team has sat on the same bench since the Wildcats’ trip to the Bahamas in mid-August. But now that players are fighting for minutes rather than on the court in practice, a few players will need to accept a limited role.

“I think it’s the first time we have the opportunity to see our team chemistry and the roles right there in front of us,” Miller said. “[We’ll] see how players handle that.”

One player whose minutes already look to be limited is four-star freshman guard Gabe York.

During media day, Miller said York, ESPN’s 65th overall prospect for the 2012 class, would have to be an everyday guy in practice. York has to roll up his sleeves, work hard and eventually earn a contributing role, Miller added.

York said at media day that he’s fine with the role and that level of competition was something that enticed him to come to Tucson. But he won’t be the only player working to find minutes this season.

The crowded frontcourt pits freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski, ESPN’s 4th overall recruit, against two other five-star freshmen — forwards Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley— as well as Chol.

“Every day in practice I have three great players to go against,” Tarczewski said during media day. “It’s competitive every day in practice. We’re all battling for playing time. We’re all battling for positions. It makes us the best basketball players we can be.”

The one player who has stood out in the frontcourt so far is Jerrett. Since arriving in July, Jerrett has been one of the most impressive players in practice, Miller said, and the power forward/center will start against the Lumberjacks.

But the lineup that takes the court tonight isn’t guaranteed to be the same once the season starts.

“On a given night or a given week, I can see where the lineup can change,” Miller said, “and I don’t mean that from a negative. I mean that only from a positive.

“That’s the great part of exhibition games — you learn more about your team when you play somebody else.”

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