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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Will UA’s backcourt be too crowded?

Give a hand to Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

With a 2011 recruiting class worthy of an elite basketball program — Rivals.com currently ranks Arizona’s class as the fifth best while ESPN gives the Wildcats the No. 3 spot in its own ranking system — he’s earned an appreciative applause.

But hold your basketball-loving horses.

You’ve always got to play devil’s advocate, because even with a ton of talent grabbing their tickets to the desert, questions of how the newbies will mesh with returning players gets complicated.

What we do know is that Arizona has a three-player 2011 class, and it will likely remain that way.

With two committed guards in Josiah Turner out of Sacramento High School and Nick Johnson from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas in that class, the question now becomes this: how will the two 2011 guards fit in with the 2010 guard class of freshmen Jordin Mayes and Daniel Bejarano?

Oh, and what about the guys that, as of now, are naturally pegged into the starting guard spots for this coming season? Sophomore Momo Jones and junior Kyle Fogg, not to mention fellow guard Brendon Lavender, will still be around in 2011.

Logjam much?

Do the math, and that means there are seven players for two spots on the court come 2011. Sure, Fogg, Lavender and Bejarano could be feasible small forwards, but I digress.

The Wildcats will simply have to figure out who is going to contribute to wins and who will need to warm the benches, but that’s not an easy decision for Miller. In the end, he will fight between giving young players experience versus giving somewhat-established players most of the playing time.

That will lead to a number of possible scenarios for the 2010 and 2011 teams:

Young guns learn on the pine

It’s the best-case scenario for the Wildcat backcourt.

Ideally, Arizona would love for veterans like Fogg and Jones to have starting positions for the next two and three years, respectfully. That gives Miller a season to develop his freshman guards; Mayes and Bejarano this year and Johnson and Turner the next.

With a year under Miller’s expectations and intense workouts under their belts, this shouldn’t be a question as to whether Fogg and Jones are in the starting lineup.

Come 2011, however, the backcourt gets crowded.

Veterans take a back seat

This is the least-likely scenario.

Recruiting rankings tell us that the 2011 Arizona guard commits are the most talented of the seven-player crop that Miller will theoretically have available.

What if those recruiting buffs are right? What if Turner and Johnson push themselves into the starting lineup?

You can argue about who was an overrated recruit or who won’t develop, but it’s going to leave at least one odd man out.

It should be noted that Jones hosted Turner during his official visit two weekends ago, according to the Daily Star. That said, Jones obviously isn’t afraid of losing playing time.

How will the others handle it?

Unhappy campers transfer

This is the most likely case for the Arizona basketball program.

Whether it’s a symptom of seeing tumultuous roster (and head coaching) turnover over the past few years, here’s to guessing the next couple of years will continue the trend of at least one transfer per school year.

Seeing the veteran players perform in clutch situations — see Fogg’s clutch, three free-throw makes against USC at McKale Center last season and Jones’ fade-away, bank shot for the win at Stanford — makes me believe they’ve solidified themselves onto the team for the remainder of their careers.

That will put some pressure onto whomever wants their backup spots in 2011.

Lavender, Mayes, Bejarano, Turner and Johnson will be fighting for those minutes, and it’ll be interesting to find out who will be willing to take a backseat and who dips out of the desert.

— Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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