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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Versus: Who is the best player of the Sean Miller generation?

Nuccio DiNuzzo
The New York Knicks’ Derrick Williams (23) makes a basket past the Chicago Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic (44) during the second half at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. The Knicks won, 115-107. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Sports reporters Ivan Leonard and Noah Sonnet give their respective picks on the best players Sean Miller ever coached.

Ivan Leonard: Nick Johnson

While head coach Sean Miller has sent multiple lottery picks to the NBA, arguably his best player during his tenure at Arizona was a second-round pick in star guard Nick Johnson . It is hard to stand out when going against teaming up with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon, but Johnson has the stats and accolades to back the claim.

From All-Freshman team to All-American, Johnson averaged 12 points and three rebounds during his three-year tenure, all while playing lockdown defense.

The two-guard’s tenure in Tucson peaked in the 2014 season when he helped lead Arizona to a 34-4 record and a No. 1-seed in the NCAA tournament.

That year, Arizona spent eight weeks ranked at No. 1 and Johnson was at the front and center of the success. Johnson led Arizona to the stingiest defense of the Sean Miller era and No. 6-best in the nation, at only 58.6 points per game allowed, while leading the Pac-12 Conference in scoring at 16 points a game.

What sets Johnson apart from other Miller-coached greats is that he could have won the conference Defensive Player of the Year along with being the Player of the Year. Quite often a star player rests on defensive, but Johnson’s relentlessness on both ends is exactly what Miller wants. Only under Johnson did Miller earn a No. 1-seed and a top ranking in what was almost a Final Four run.

Sure, Johnson may not have ended his Arizona career the best way with a subpar tournament, but that should not overshadow the great college career he had. He is the greatest player Miller has ever coached, and he stood out on a team loaded with stars. He may not be as beloved as some of the point guards this school has seen, but Johnson is a Wildcat legend.

Noah Sonnet: Derrick Williams

The best player Miller has ever coached is Derrick Williams, an All-American, a former Pac-10 Player of the Year and a guy who knew how to block.

The 6-foot-8 forward played the best basketball of his career at Arizona from 2010-2011.

Williams, who produced nearly a double-double every game, was a standout star for Miller and his Wildcats, leading them to a Pac-10 championship back in 2011.

Williams also carried the team to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight that same year. Known for his size and strength, Williams dominated the paint and crashed the boards every chance he got. The former second overall draft pick won many awards during his stay at Tucson; the same, if not more, than other Wildcat greats.

But Williams was different. The star forward who took campus — and the nation — by storm is yet another brilliant product of the many great things Miller created here at the UA.

Williams’ rise to stardom is why he easily gets my vote as the best player Miller has coached at Arizona.

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