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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


New faces in new places

Nathanial Stenchever

Kim Aiken Jr. a Junior on the University of Arizona Men’s Basketball team takes on two blue team defenders at the Red-Blue game on Oct. 2, at the Mckale Center. Aiken’s shot was blocked, bounced off the backboard, and then was recovered by the blue team.

Head coach Tommy Lloyd isn’t the only new face around Arizona men’s basketball, as he brings in a fresh mindset and many new names into Tucson. Lloyd was able to maintain five key players from last year’s team at the end of the Sean Miller era, but along with that he was able to grab many new players via the transfer portal or international commitment trail. Some of these players look to play extremely key roles in this upcoming season. 

First off is transfer guard Justin Kier. Kier, coming over from Georgia and an SEC conference that was extremely solid last year, opening many eyes as a conference to look out for consistently. Kier played about 30 minutes a night for Georgia, becoming an obvious key role as a reliable defender and ball handler. In those big minutes, he averaged 9.5 points, two assists, four rebounds, two steals and on 39-37-75 shooting splits. Kier is expected to be someone that plays a lot of spot minutes for Lloyd as a backup ball-handler or someone he pairs up with Kerr Krissa in two-guard lineups to help the former guard out defensively up top. 

Shane Nowell was a prominent basketball recruit for Miller and he stayed committed when Lloyd took the job. Nowell comes from Sammamish, Washington, as a great scorer and play creator from the combo guard position. He is ranked 83rd overall in the country according to 24/7 Sports. Nowell is someone who can put the ball in the basket in a hurry. He is a lefty with a smooth handle and a bag of moves in his arsenal to get to the cup. He is still refining his shot but expect Nowell to be a spark plug player off the bench this year. 

Adama Bal is another four-star Arizona commit this offseason. The guard from Paris is extremely lanky with a 6-foot-6 profile at the floor general position as well. Bal, being extremely raw in his development, may not see much this year, but seeing him in practice and at the Red-Blue game, he is a name Arizona fans could remember. At 17 years old, his play-making and smoothness to the feel of the game are impressive, and he also has a great motor defensively. 

Pelle Larsson is a transfer from the University of Utah and has only been in the college game for one year with many years left of eligibility. Larsson is a sharpshooter who shot 47% from 3 last season on his 8 points per game. Since he’s recovering from a foot injury this off-season, it is yet to be known how much Pelle will be able to play early in the season, but Lloyd referenced him as “one of our best players” at media day. When Larsson gets the clear, expect 20 minutes quickly from him as he provides a rarity in college basketball, a player you cannot leave a sliver of space to. 

Oumar Ballo joined Lloyd by coming over from Gonzaga University via the transfer portal. Ballo is a behemoth of an athlete standing at 7 feet tall and 260 pounds of mass protecting the paint. Ballo and Christian Koloko could provide decently reliable rim protection as each of their best strengths are interior defense, and Ballo has experience with Lloyd’s system as well from sticking with him for two years now. 

Kim Aiken Jr. transferred from Eastern Washington during Sean Miller’s final days and decided to stick with the commitment to Tucson when Lloyd took the job. Aiken is a prolific wing defender and a veteran with postseason experience which will be key for this young blossoming team. Aiken averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds last season on an Eastern Washington team that pushed Kansas to the brink in the round of 64. Aiken Jr. is also comfortable talking to a crowd as he was extremely thankful to be around the Wildcats at media day. He could be someone that ZonaZoo feels comfortable with quickly. 

Lloyd has a good mix of new and old faces on this 2021-22 Arizona men’s basketball team and lots of talent between the two as well. Being picked to finish fourth by the Pac-12 along with Oregon State University is high praise for a completely new team, but the talent is there, and soon they’ll have the chance to show it off in McKale.

Follow Patrick Carr on Twitter 

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