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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Humboldt more than preseason game for UA basketball

Larry Hogan/Arizona Daily Wildcat Freshmen Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski go up against each other during practice at Richard Jefferson Gymnasium on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012.

Arizona was doomed from the start.

Coming off an unprecedented Elite Eight run, on the heels of Derrick Williams’ historic season, expectations were a bit bloated.

“It was a dark day of reality of ‘This is where our basketball team is,’” head coach Sean Miller said.

The Wildcats went on to miss the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons, after making 25 straight before that, and lost to Bucknell in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

A bloated No. 16 preseason ranking, coupled with the predetermination that Josiah Turner was the next great member of Point Guard U (he wasn’t), gave this team false hope.

The season-opening exhibition 69-68 loss to Seattle Pacific deflated this team and the Arizona fan base.

But expectations are even higher this year, and the Wildcats are ranked No. 12 in the AP preseason poll.

“We all look at preseason, and it’s just that,” Miller said. “Our record is 0-0.”

The writing was on the wall last season, however. Turner and Sidiki Johnson were immature and the Wildcats were supremely undersized, with 6-foot-7 Jesse Perry starting at center and 6-foot-6 Solomon Hill at power forward. The team was not ready to carry the weight of the previous year’s success.

A lot has changed since then. Turner, Johnson and Kyryl Natyazhko are gone. Jesse Perry, Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender have graduated.

Size is no longer an issue. The Wildcats added three freshmen in Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, who range from 6-foot-8 to 7-feet tall. There is also an experienced, proven player in the point guard position in Mark Lyons.

With freshmen, it’s a lot harder to predict personality than skill set. Miller has raved about the maturity of Ashley, Jerrett, Tarczewski and guard Gabe York, and Hill has been impressed as well.

“There’s no egos this year,” Hill said at media day. “We don’t have any problems. Nobody’s been late. That’s a good feeling when you have a good team. There’s nobody that’s not willing to learn.”

Learning from past mistakes will be the underlying theme of the 2012 season. Nobody knows if the freshmen quartet will make as big of an impact as we all expect them to, or if Lyons will overcome the questions of maturity that came about at Xavier.

In that game against Seattle Pacific, Turner made his debut with seven points and four assists, while Johnson fouled out with four points and two rebounds in just 14 minutes of action.

Hill had a solid game, scoring 16 points, but Fogg did not.

Considered to be the team leader, in large part because of his work ethic leading up to the season, Fogg finished with just three points on 1-of-5 shooting.

“Kyle Fogg invested his heart and soul for a great offseason for us in his final year,” Miller said. “He was determined to be the best player he’s been at Arizona.

Hill has inherited the role of senior leader, and he’s taken it in stride. If Arizona is going to avoid an upset to the almighty Humboldt State, he will have to be the one that steps up.

“When I’m watching Solomon practice now, he’s focused, he’s better, he’s ready and he’s hungry to leave a winner,” Miller said.

Hill can’t afford to score only three points, and Arizona can’t afford to lose to Humboldt.

It’s only the preseason opener. It doesn’t count toward the season record. But it matters just the same.

— Zack Rosenblatt is the sports editor. He can be reached at or via Twitter @ZackBlatt

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