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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Chance Comanche’s ‘timely’ performance gives Miller, Wildcats spark of light before conference play

Alex McIntyre
Arizona center Chance Comanche (21) collides with Jake Desjardins (55) after recovering a rebound against Sacred Heart in McKale Center on Friday, Nov. 18. The Wildcats beat the Pioneers 95-65.

As No. 18 Arizona closed out the non-conference schedule with its 77-46 win over the New Mexico Lobos, the Wildcats were searching for a frontcourt spark from players not named Lauri Markkanen and Dusan Ristic.

The ‘Cats got that Tuesday in sophomore forward Chance Comanche who finished the evening with a career-high 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting, eight rebounds and a block.

“I just really cleared my head and just told myself to ‘play basketball—your team needs you’,” Comanche said. “They saw me when I was open and they got me the ball so I just tried to capitalize on it when I caught it and things turned out right.”

The biggest factor for Comanche’s success against New Mexico was the fact that he appeared to play so effortlessly and was unleashed by running the floor, rebounding and finishing at the rim.

“That was the best game he’s played this season—maybe in two seasons,” Miller said. “I think he showed not only all of us, but himself that in a process, things don’t all of a sudden happen right away. You have to go through the bumps that come with a bigger role—learn what to do and what not to do.”

With the hand that Arizona was dealt, all of the tasks on the checklist were scratched off except for finding Comanche’s role on the team.

Playing without Allonzo Trier gave younger players more opportunities to mature, Kadeem Allen is capable of playing substitute point guard until Parker Jackson-Cartwright returns from his high-ankle sprain and Lauri Markkanen is living up to the hype of NBA lottery pick talent.

Comanche came into this season as a project. He was too skinny to play significant minutes last season even though he showed potential as a defensive prowess, made questionable plays on the offensive end especially in the Pac-12 Tournament and couldn’t break through. With a slim frontcourt, Comanche went from a player to get a few rebounds while Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski rested to an important piece of the rotation of bigs.

He came into the new season adding over 25 lbs. to his 6-foot-11 frame and even showed in videos online that his outside shot was improving, but he never revealed his alleged talent into games. Sometimes players can play like all-stars in practice behind closed doors, but put up eggs in games—it happens, but with so much uncertainty about the team with the injury and Trier fiasco holding the team from reaching its full stride, everyone was holding their breath for Comanche to at least show a sign that he’s worth the process.

It wasn’t like Comanche was absolutely garbage leading up to the New Mexico game, because he averaged 8.5 points in the first four games, but ever since Arizona’s first loss to Butler, he’s averaged 2.85 points per game. For a player who was expected to be Arizona’s true rim protector and the one that does all of the dirty work, Comanche hasn’t provided that. He was the only returning player who never lived up to his expectations as a role player, but Comanche’s offensive performance against the Lobos gives Miller a breath of fresh air.

“I think it came in a timely manner for him,” Miller said. “He needed some confidence and I think he’s filled with it here right now.”

It just sounds like Comanche could be a one-hit wonder against a non-sexy team, but when Comanche plays at a high level like Tuesday, it gives Arizona a new dimension, because Miller trusts him to play more minutes. When Miller trusts Comanche, he leaves him in and when he leaves him in, Arizona fans may receive a lineup of Lauri Markkanen playing shooting guard, Keanu Pinder as a small forward, Comanche lining up as a power forward and Dusan Ristic anchoring the center position.

“I think it makes it easier for us, because it just gives us a bigger variety—like we have more options now, because we have a taller lineup at that moment,” Comanche said. “You can go to any of us in the post or hit [Markkanen] on the wing and it’s just a better threat at times.”

Arizona so far has seven scholarship players and still has the tallest lineup in the Pac-12 and with Comanche revealing his capabilities on the offensive end, it’s time for him to polish it off with a defensive presence to give others like Lauri Markkanen a break from doing everything.

As the Wildcats move into conference play, they’re not asking for Comanche to bring up the ball or score every single time he touches the ball although he did against the Lobos. All Arizona needs is a rim protecting big man who causes havoc with energy and can finish a fast break consistently.

“I just want him to play with a lot of energy and effort,” Miller said. “He’s blessed with some amazing talent… Just watching the energy plays that he made, he’s capable of making those plays night in and night out. I think he’s one of the many things I’m excited about moving forward, because I think the best has yet to come for him.”

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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