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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Chol makes case for time at center

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona Basketball victory against Humboldt State

With 5:17 left in Arizona’s 60-51 win against Humboldt State on Tuesday, UA was holding on to a five-point lead and 22 seconds on the shot clock, freshman center Sidiki Johnson jacked up a three-pointer from the top of the key.

The result? Air ball.

A frustrated Sean Miller pulled Johnson immediately for fellow freshman Angelo Chol. The long and lanky lefty scored Arizona’s next five points — a reverse layup, a dunk and a free throw — and officially entered himself into the Wildcats’ center carousel.

Center Kyryl Natyazhko, who grabbed 12 rebounds on Tuesday, is fairly set as Arizona’s starting center. Chol, who entered the season as a power forward, will get more and more time as he develops.

“What’s going to make our team the best and him the best is for him to play that position,” Miller said. “We need some help there and I think he can do a good job.”

Miller initially tabbed Chol as a power forward due to his face-up game and frame. But after 14 practices and two exhibition games, Miller admitted he may have been wrong.

“One of the hard parts when you coach big guys who are freshmen, it’s hard to predetermine what position they’ll be the most comfortable at right away,” Miller said. “To me he’s the most comfortable right now playing the five.”

“I also think with his shot blocking ability and if you look at his physical size, it’s not like he’s that much smaller than our other fives. He’s quick, he’s got a good attitude and to me, us getting better is to make him feel more comfortable.”

While Chol is gaining steam, Johnson has been unimpressive through two games. The Bronx, N.Y. product is 2-for-9 with four turnovers so far. He’s also struggled with the mental aspect of the game, most notably his defensive positioning.

“Sidiki’s learning what it’s like to play the game of college basketball and what it’s like to play on a team at this level,” Miller said.

Hitting the glass

After getting outrebounded 29-20 against Seattle Pacific, the Wildcats grabbed 49 boards to Humboldt State’s 23. Jesse Perry (14 boards) and Natyazhko (12 rebounds, seven offensive) combined for 26 rebounds on Tuesday.

“If me, (Solomon Hill) and Kyryl don’t have a big night rebounding, it’s hard for us to win,” Perry said. “We’re not a very big team and I think that’s one of the things we’ve got to do every day, consistently to be a good team.”

The rebounding was expected from Perry, who finished with a double-double. But Natyazhko showed a mean streak that’s been missing as he even mixed in a one-handed tip slam.

“That was part of the reason we lost to a Division II school,” Natyazhko said of the lack of rebounding. “We just took pride rebounding, something me and Jess can definitely help the team do and we just stepped up tonight (Tuesday).”

No more 10-man rotation, more Nick Johnson

Arizona thrived playing 10 guys last season. But with a less-talented group this year, Miller doesn’t see the 10-man rotation being the answer.

He said some players will play less, some not at all. Nick Johnson isn’t one of them.

“I’ll give you one example: Nick Johnson. I love the way Nick’s playing the game and there’s only so much you can do with 14 practices and two games,” Miller said. “But I do know this: giving him a bigger role is going to help our team.”

Johnson could steal minutes from Kyle Fogg, who’s 3-for-13 through two games.

“Kyle needs to shoot better,” Miller said.

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