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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona men’s basketball media day breakdown, part one: Forwards/centers

Oumar+Ballo%2C+center+on+the+Arizona+mens+basketball+team%2C+dunks+on+Thursday%2C+Feb.+17%2C+in+McKale+Center.+The+Wildcats+would+win+the+game+83-69+against+Oregon+State+University.
Nathanial Stenchever

Oumar Ballo, center on the Arizona men’s basketball team, dunks on Thursday, Feb. 17, in McKale Center. The Wildcats would win the game 83-69 against Oregon State University.

The Arizona men’s basketball team held their media day on Tuesday, Oct. 11, for the 2022-23 season in McKale Center in Tucson. Head coach Tommy Lloyd is entering his second season as head coach of the program after leading the Wildcats to a 33-4 regular season record and Sweet Sixteen berth a season ago. Lloyd acknowledged Tuesday afternoon that this is indeed a different group, and that he generally doesn’t like to compare his teams.

“I’m excited. I’m always excited about the journey for each individual team, because to me, that’s where I find the joy. It’s not always in the end results. It’s taking each team and each individual player on that team through the journey, and so I feel like I can feel that happening, so I’m excited,” Lloyd said.

Arizona lost center Christian Koloko to the NBA draft in May, but Lloyd seemed confident in the big man group to begin the season.

Azuolas Tubelis | Jr. | 6-feet-11 | F

Tubelis finished fifth in minutes on a team a season ago that lost three starters to the NBA draft. He also finished second in total points scored, only behind Bennedict Mathurin, averaging 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Tubelis mentioned his rebounding as an area he wants to improve on. He and center Oumar Ballo will need to make an impact together on the boards as the starting frontcourt.

“I’ll try to go for rebounds more. I want to have like, eight, nine rebounds a game. With points, I don’t really care about points because with this team we’re sharing the ball in practice. We’re trying again to get like 20, 21 assists per game like last year,” Tubelis said.

Filip Borovicanin | Fr. | 6-feet-9 | F

Borovicanin is a freshman from Serbia who last played for an amateur club called KK Beko in his hometown of Belgrade, averaging 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists on the season. Lloyd has spoken of his abilities shooting from the perimeter and finishing in the mid-range and the paint, as well as operating as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll offense. Minutes may be hard to come by for the young Serbian this season, however. Borovicanin has noted a difference in competition level between his former league compared to now playing with his Wildcat teammates.

“Well, for me, it’s really tough because I played in an amateur league before I came here. So, it’s really hard for me to play here, but I’m getting used to it and I feel I’m getting better and we’re getting better like a team,” Borovicanin said.

Henri Veesaar | Fr. | 7-feet | F

Veesaar is another freshman recruit coming to Tucson a long way from home. He is from Tallinn, Estonia, and most recently played for Real Madrid in the EuroLeague. Veesaar provides depth behind Tubelis and Ballo in the frontcourt and is one of three 7-footers now on the roster between him, Ballo, and fellow freshman Dylan Anderson. Veesaar got a glimpse of the Arizona fandom during the Red-Blue game in late September, and he is excited for more once the season starts.

“It felt amazing, like feeling the energy from all the people. You felt like you could jump two, three inches for sure higher,” Veesaar said.

Oumar Ballo | R-Jr. | 7-feet | C

Oumar Ballo had a productive first year with Arizona a season ago, and he is now going to be asked to build off it and continue to grow as he likely assumes the starter role. He contributed 6.8 points per game in 2021-22 while mostly coming off the bench. Ballo also tallied 1.2 blocks per game, second on the team only to former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Koloko. Ballo will look to fill the role of defensive anchor this season after the departure of Koloko to the Toronto Raptors.

“I need to be more supportive and getting by guys in case you have someone go blow by, or someone will drive and I have to come to challenge every shot,” Ballo said.

Jordan Mains | Sr. | 6-foot-6 | F

Jordan Mains enters his fourth season playing for the Wildcats and provides depth as another long, athletic forward, and standing at 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, he won’t get pushed around on defense either. Mains appeared in just 15 games last season, totaling 31 minutes on the year. Two of the freshman big men have caught the eye of Mains so far at practice.

“[Veesaar]’s size and [Anderson]’s size, you know I didn’t know that they were both 7-footers,” Mains said. “Their size is definitely going to help us out.”


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