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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Patience key for Bejarano

Patience key for Bejarano

He’s probably never sat the bench this long in his life.

He’s probably never watched so many possessions. Dribble after dribble, bucket after bucket, his head follows the ball back and forth like a tennis referee.

The only sweat he feels is when he gets up off the bench to slap hands with the five guys coming off the floor.

UA freshman Daniel Bejarano was the state’s top high school prospect in his class of 2010. He recognizes that Sean Miller’s program is on the rise and wants to make an impact.

Yet he can’t get off the bench.

Bejarano is “”way far”” behind the rest of the team according to Miller.

It’s not just one aspect of his game – it’s his overall competitiveness in practice. Bejarano must improve to crack even a reserve role.

Bejarano did get to play in Sunday’s home opener against Idaho State – but so did walk-ons like Max Wiepking, who saw zero minutes last season.

Miller has reiterated that Bejarano is a good kid with a great attitude, but it takes time to make one of the most underrated and difficult leaps in the game: high school to college.

The day an incoming freshman steps foot on campus, suddenly his recruiting rankings and stars vanish. According to Rivals.com, Bejarano is a four-star. So was Kyryl Natyazhko. Heck, Jamelle Horne was a five-star.

Those stars vanish and suddenly those 18-year-old boys compete with 21- and 22-year-old men.

Those stars vanish, only to be replaced with new stars — the fuzzy kind seen after enduring a hard screen from a 7-foot senior center.

Yet fans continue to drool every fall and spring when Letter Of Intent Day hits.

Five-star recruits, oh my.

But aside from overzealous fans and talking heads, who cares?

Coaches praise and crown recruits the “”best at his position in his class”” and “”someone who can carry on the tradition”” because they have no other option but to feed a media core hungry to start making comparisons.

“”He’ll be the next Richard Jefferson,”” they would say.

What else would coaches do, criticize? Tell fans he needs to work on ball distribution, pull up jumpers, or his left hand drive?

Obviously recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, but a top-notch coach means so much more to the success of any program.

Because everyone — every last recruit — needs to conquer one big beast: Defense.

Incoming freshmen hardly ever make a seamless adjustment to the college game defensively, playing against guys twice the size of high school opponents.

Preemptive expectations can often spoil a fan’s perspective of an incoming freshman — whether it’s a five-star stud from Oak Hill Academy or a junior college transfer. The adjustment to college basketball comes not from a physical standpoint — but mental.

Last time I checked, Rivals.com doesn’t give a ranking for mental toughness.

“”It’s so early for freshmen, it’s hard to say they’re great, not great, or going to play a lot or in some cases they’re not going to play at all,”” Miller said. “”You know, Daniel is a fantastic kid. But not everybody gets to play and the reason he didn’t play has nothing to do with his demeanor or attitude. It’s just that in practice he’s not been able to have three weeks of practice worthy of playing,”” he added.

Practice, man. Four-star recruit or not, we’re talkin’ about practice.

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