Arizona Wildcats virtual media day recap, part two: The frontcourt


Amy Bailey

Ira Lee (11) tries to run pass the Trojan defense.

Ryan Wohl

This is part two of the Arizona Wildcats’ virtual media day recap. Check out part one: evaluating the Wildcats’ 2020-21 backcourt.


Sr.  | Ira Lee | 6-8 | 

Ira Lee is entering his senior season this year and is one of only three returning Wildcats from a season ago. Last season he played limited minutes as Chase Jeter, Zeke Naji and Stone Gettings played most of the time between the frontcourt players.

Coming out of high school, Lee was a four-star recruit, and coaches and fans had high hopes entering head coach Sean Miller’s system here in Tucson but everything didn’t go as planned for Ira so far in his basketball career.

“It’s been a roller-coaster, a good one all together. I think it’s built me into the person I am today,” Lee said. “My main focus is coming in as a leader, with that being a leader you have to lead by example. Once we got together everyone clicked, telling them when they make mistakes to keep going.”

Ira Lee is the longest teetered player on this 2020-21 Wildcats’ roster and can help mentor a lot of their young big men this season. He has one more year of eligibility left because of the NCAA granting seniors another year to play because of COVID-19 but it didn’t sound too optimistic to see him after this season.

“I’m approaching this year as my last year,” Lee said.

So.  | Christian Koloko | 7-1 | 

Christian Koloko could have the most upside on this Arizona team but we didn’t see a whole lot of him in his Freshman season as he only played 8.3 minutes per game. When he was on the floor, he made sure to make an impact and show everyone a glimpse of why he can be a star not only on the college level but maybe someday in the NBA.

Koloko blocked 25 shots which is impressive considering he played less than five minutes some of the games. His best game came against Oregon State, where he played 10 minutes and blocked three shots, which is simply incredible.

Each week, Miller gives out a gold jersey to the player that was the hardest worker that week. Koloko was the latest player to receive the honor.

R-So. | Jordan Brown | 6-11 | transfer from Nevada

The first two weeks of practice, Jordan Brown, was awarded the gold jersey as his coaches and teammates have continued to rave about his hard work.

Brown, coming out of high school, was a consensus five-star prospect and committed to Nevada after getting offers from Arizona and others. In his freshman, he underperformed as he only averaged three points per game while starting one game.

Coming to Arizona, he is looking for a change of scenery and he has a good opportunity after the Wildcats lost three of their best centers from last season. Last season he had to sit out because of the NCAA transfer rules.

“It’s really exciting after all the work put in this offseason, being able to be here with a new team and new guys,” Brown said. “I feel like I have a better feel for the system and the game. I feel like I can have my own little impact … I’m looking forward to showing it.”

Fr.  | Bennedict Mathurin | 6-7 | NBA Academy Latin America 

Mathurin is an interesting player as he can play many different positions on the court. He is originally from Montreal, Canada but attended the NBA Academy Latin America last year in Mexico City. He was nationally ranked as the No. 51 player in this year’s recruiting class and is a four-star prospect.  Mathurin said he played point guard last season but also can guard bigger players if needed.

“I feel like we have a great team and everyone’s cool, I get along with [Koloko] as he is a French speaker too” Mathurin said. “My game improved a lot, playing with the NBA Academy last year I was the point guard,” Mathurin said. “My game is still improving … If we play a bigger team, I could play the three but if we play a bigger team I can play the four.”

RELATED: Arizona Wildcats virtual media day recap, part one: The backcourt

Fr.  | Tibet Gorener | 6-9 | Turkey

Gorener moved to the United States when he was in high school, where he then relocated to California to continue his basketball career as he saw a better opportunity. He is Arizona’s lowest ranked incoming four-star player coming into the program this year, but he is still a very talented forward who provides a much-needed shooting touch.

“So far it’s been pretty good,” Gorener said. “The competitiveness in practice has been really fun and I’m getting better every day. I’ve been working on getting stronger in the weight room, getting better defensively, and I bring a good feel to the game. I feel like I can definitely make shots when I have the opportunity.”

Fr.  | Daniel Batcho | 6-11 | France

Batcho is a talented center from France, as 247Sports ranked him as the No. 18 center in the 2020 recruiting class and No. 108 overall. He chose Arizona over Arizona State, Miami, and Virginia Tech.

He recently had knee surgery and is out indefinitely and he said a return could come in January. Batcho has a history of injuries as he tore his ACL in 2018 causing him to miss his 2018-2019 season.

The Tubelis Brothers

Azuolas and Tautilas Tubelis are both very talented forwards from Lithuania but they are still adjusting to life in America. Azuolas is considered by experts to be the better brother as he was ranked as a four-star prospect compared to his brothers’ two-star rating.

Azuolas is a 6-foot-9 power forward and is a good rebounder for his position and has a lot of upside at the position. His brother is smaller at 6-foot-6 and is more of a small forward and is more of a project type guy, who maybe by the time he is a junior or senior can start to make an impact on the team.

“[Coach Miller] understands me well. I like him as a person,” Azuolas said. “I always wanted to play with my brother, we used to play together in Lithuania. We thought it was better and more comfortable to come to the United States together. Growing up in the states was like a dream country. It was hard to come here from Europe.”

“We are telling our family that we chose the best decision in our life so far,” Tubelis said.

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