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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Miller, Wildcats upbeat despite four starters gone

Tyler Baker

Coach Sean Miller watches the scoreboard during Arizona’s 80-52 win against Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament championship in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. on March 14.

Following Stanley Johnson’s decision to enter the NBA Draft, Arizona fans are left pondering, what next?

With Kaleb Tarczewski likely to return next season, although no official announcement has been made, the Wildcats are losing four of their five starters.

That’s a hole that will be tough, if not impossible to replace, no matter the talent coming in.

However, the Wildcats should still be in good shape for next season with a top five recruiting class and a few open scholarships available.

At the Johnson press conference, Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller indicated the UA would look for one more player to join the program this spring.

“I think the reality of it is we could potentially add one more,” Miller said. “I don’t know look at us trying to add more than one, whether that be a fifth year transfer who is eligible immediately or somebody who is from high school, or somebody who could sit out like T.J. McConnell or Ryan Anderson did.”

The most likely choice for the final spot is University of San Francisco transfer Mark Tollefsen, a 6-foot-9 power forward who averaged 14 points last season. Tollefsen, who visited Arizona last weekend, will be a fifth year senior who can come in and play immediately.

While the addition Tollefsen and return of Tarczewski would solidify Arizona’s depth in the paint, the Wildcats will have a difficult time replacing Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the wing.

The one incoming recruit who fits into the wing role is Ray Smith, a five-star small forward out of Las Vegas. Smith may not have the scoring touch of Johnson or the tenacious defense of Hollis-Jefferson, but his size and athleticism should give him a good shot at earning major playing time next season.

Most likely, Arizona will feature a smaller roster than in years past, as the bulk of the UA’s talent falls in the guard positions.

Redshirt Kadeem Allen will be eligible this fall and is expected to be one of the team’s top scorers. Arizona also brings in a pair of highly touted guards in Allonzo Trier and Justin Simon.

Trier is the dynamite scorer the Wildcats have lacked in past years. At the Jordan Brand Classic last week, he earned Most Valuable Player after scoring 26 points on 8-10 shooting from the field.

Simon, meanwhile, fits more of a traditional point guard role but also provides good size at 6-foot-5.

Of course, Arizona already has a good group of guards returning to the program, including Gabe York, who picked up his play down the stretch of the 2014-2015 season. Sophomore-to-be Parker Jackson-Cartwright will be in the hunt for the starting point guard position.

“We’ve been moving to the coveted Final Four and competing for high seeds in the Tournament,” Miller said. “We’ve had our success so when you have it you want to continue it.”

The talent to maintain that success should be in place, even if it takes a much different form.


Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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