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Analysis: How Arizona’s freshmen have stacked up to preseason expectations

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat Arizona freshman forward Angelo Chol, 30, is defended by two Utah players in the opening minutes of the Wildcats’ match-up against the Utah Utes in McKale Center on Saturday, February 11, 2012.

After Arizona head coach Sean Miller pulled in the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class in 2011, according to Rivals.com, the Wildcats had high preseason expectations despite losing Derrick Williams to the NBA. While the class hasn’t lived up to the expectations of some so far, it has held its own and has the Wildcats in a position to make the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. Here’s a look at what was expected out of each player and how they’ve actually panned out:

Angelo Chol, forward

What Rivals.com said:

Chol is a renowned rebounder and shot blocker.

What the Daily Wildcat said:

Chol’s development will be crucial in providing a solid defensive presence inside. He’s a possible lanky shot-blocker, but could struggle early on with his slight, 210-pound frame.

What’s really happened:

While Chol didn’t exactly struggle early on, he wasn’t making positive things happen, either. The 6-foot-9 forward found himself being more comfortable at center as opposed to power forward. His confidence has only grown and he played a key role in Arizona’s sweep of the Bay Area schools. Chol’s size has helped Arizona deal with potential matchup problems as the season has gone on, and he averages 2.8 points per game, 2.4 rebounds and is Arizona’s leading shot-blocker with 23 swats on the season.

Nick Johnson, guard

What Rivals.com said:

Five-star prospect Nick Johnson is a NBA caliber athlete and highlight waiting to happen.

What the Daily Wildcat said:

Johnson’s explosive athleticism with and without the ball will only develop into a more dangerous weapon as the season progresses.

What’s really happened:

Rivals couldn’t have been more accurate in calling Johnson a “highlight waiting to happen.” The 6-foot-2 guard started strong out of the gates, energizing McKale Center with spectacular dunks and being one of the Wildcats’ more reliable shooters. But he’s struggled in Pac-12 play, despite scoring a season-high 20 points against Washington on Saturday. He’s scored fewer than seven points seven times during conference play, and averages 9.6 points per game on 39.7 percent shooting to go along with 2.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds.

Sidiki Johnson, forward

What Rivals.com said:

Sidiki Johnson is a rugged rebounder who can score in the post.

What the Daily Wildcat said:

Johnson has been unimpressive through two games. He’s also struggled with the mental aspect of the game, most notably his defensive positioning.

What’s really happened:

Johnson only played three games at Arizona before leaving the program and eventually opting to transfer to Providence. The 6-foot-8 forward struggled mightily in his limited action as a Wildcat, scoring just 1 point, grabbing two rebounds and turning the ball over once in seven minutes.

Josiah Turner, guard

What Rivals.com said:

No. 2-ranked point guard Josiah Turner is the top ranked prospect in the class.

What the Daily Wildcat said:

If Turner can be the kind of electric distributor of the ball that he was in high school, it’s going to make everyone on the floor with him more dangerous.

What’s really happened:

Turner has taken over the reins as Arizona’s starting point guard despite a pair of suspensions early in the season. While he isn’t the one-and-done player that some expected him to be, Arizona’s offense is at its best with Turner on the floor. He regularly delivers beautiful passes to set his teammates up for a score, and he averages 6.6 points per game to go along with 2.3 assists. Turner has also occasionally flashed a solid mid-range game and shoots 41.4 percent from the field.

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