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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Moving on

Adapting to change is one of the toughest things to do in life.

Just ask the Arizona men’s basketball team, which must deal with the loss of Derrick Williams after his No. 2 overall selection in June’s NBA Draft.

Williams’ departure leaves a void of 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game from the 2010-2011 season, and the 6-foot-8 forward was also one of the most efficient players in America, knocking down nearly 57 percent of his shots from 3-point range.

But head coach Sean Miller thinks Arizona experienced a similar situation following the 2009-2010 season.

“”I think it’s easy to speculate, but a year ago, I think a similar question was, ‘How do you replace a leader like Nic Wise that had so much experience and came through in the clutch so many times in his senior year for you?'”” Miller said in the UA summer prospectus, which was released last week.

While Wise didn’t produce the quantifiable numbers that Williams did, he was a four-year contributor at the most vocal position on the floor. Wise was also the team’s emotional leader after playing under four different coaches in as many years.

But even though Arizona faces the tall task of replacing Williams’ production, Miller said that the mood surrounding the team hasn’t wavered since the UA’s trip to the Elite Eight last season.

“”The mood is high right now and that’s the byproduct that you experience when you have the type of season and accomplish what we did last year,”” Miller said. “”When you think about the players going through the 38 games last year … that experience stays with you, you’re hungry to return.””

Miller also said he knows that it’s next to impossible for one player to step up and have the same type of impact that Williams had, and the team’s makeup will be different because of that.

“”We need to develop collectively and we need a lot of different players to become better and improve across the board,”” Miller said. “”It’s not just our four man or our five man, we don’t have a team this year like we had last year.””

Miller said he looks at Arizona’s upperclassmen and the leadership they can provide as a reason for optimism, despite losing three contributors from the Elite Eight team.

“”I’m confident that we have upperclassmen that have been with us now for two years, which is always a positive, and I think they understand how we do things on a daily basis,”” Miller said. “”We’re also going to count on four incoming freshmen to come in and help us shape a totally new team.””

Even though Arizona is playing without Williams, the Wildcats won’t be able to sneak up on opponents like they did last year. After winning the Pacific 10 Conference regular-season title a season ago, Miller said he knows that Arizona won’t just have a bull’s-eye on its back from the rest of that conference, but also from newcomers Colorado and Utah.

“”The games are going to play themselves out whether you can sneak up on teams or not, whether you’re picked to win it or not,”” Miller said. “”The most important questions to answer are how good are we? Are we getting better? Are we getting ready?””

Arizona’s offseason has gone well enough to alleviate some of Miller’s concern about those questions.

“”I think we have a lot of hungry guys,”” Miller said. “”When you experience what we experienced a year ago, you really want to get back to that time and time again. We know that it’s not easy to do and we’re a hard-working group of guys right now.””

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