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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Basketball notes: Bahamas trip a success for Wildcats

Arizona’s men’s basketball team may not officially take the floor until November, but a recent trip to the Bahamas for a series of exhibition games allowed the Wildcats to get away from Tucson and try to start building some team chemistry.

“Atlantis is an incredible place,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said about the popular resort in the Bahamas. “It’s great for guys of the ages of our players. It was a way for us to spend time with each other and enjoy the end of summer.”

This summer, Arizona joined five other Pac-12 teams playing games across the globe, including Senegal, Australia, China and Europe. While summer international exhibitions may be nothing new for Arizona, traveling to the Bahamas was an easier trek than to Europe, says Miller.

“It’s not nearly as long or expensive of a trip as Europe,” Miller said. “The season can become pressure packed, and you don’t want to limp to the finish because of what you did before.”

At five days, the length of the trip was important to the UA’s head coach because of the amount of work the Wildcats had put in. Miller said that after being “at it for eight or nine weeks” in summer workouts, he had to decide how much time away from Tucson was appropriate for a vacation.

The coaching staff also had a chance to witness the progress of injured players in game-like situations, as the UA handily defeated two Bahamian basketball teams by a combined score of 235-123.

“That trip was more valuable to (Arizona senior forward Kevin) Parrom more than anyone,” Miller said. “He answered a lot of doubts. He was shot, and he’s almost at the one-year mark, and he’s almost 100 percent.”

Newcomers give Wildcats needed size and depth
This season, the Wildcats will have more newcomers than returning starters, after losing eight players to graduation and transfers. A deeper, and arguably more talented, roster has Miller and Co. excited.

“We have more talent than when we made the run with (former Arizona forward) Derrick (Williams),” senior forward Solomon Hill said. “We have weapons at every position. The difference between the Elite Eight and the NIT was height.”

If there’s one thing the Wildcats accomplished with this top-5 recruiting class, it was adding much-needed size. The last three seasons, Williams and former forward Jesse Perry manned the middle, which is not an ideal situation considering the two forwards were just 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-7, respectively.

Those worries are seemingly gone with the addition of freshmen forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett, who are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-10, paired with 7-foot freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski, allowing the 6-foot-7 Hill to move back to his natural position at small forward.

“We have depth and size in big men,” Miller said. “Having someone with that size is going to help us, especially with (6-foot-9-inch sophomore forward) Angelo (Chol), who is bigger with that same size.”

Lyons adjusting well to Tucson
Perhaps the most important addition to the Arizona roster is Mark Lyons, the point guard who transferred from Xavier, the same school that Miller coached at prior to taking the Arizona job.

The connection between Lyons and the rest of the team has grown over time, particularly because of his defense, which Hill says is the best way to get on the court.

“Maybe best thing he does is how quick he is on defense,” Miller said. “He’s old in terms of college basketball, and he has a lot of know-how. It’s so unique to add a guy with his mindset and experience on the defensive end.”

Over the last three years, Lyons has grown from a player who did not play his freshman year to a shooting guard, before finally settling in now as the starting point guard in his final season of eligibility.

“There’s not really a big difference,” Lyons said about the position switch. “It’s the same system, I
just have a different school on my chest. I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to play at my natural position full time.”

Off the court, the biggest transition from the Schenectady, N.Y., native has been the difference in weather. The average summer temperature in Cincinnati, where Xavier is located, is between 83 and 86 degrees, in contrast to the dry 100-degree summer days of Tucson.

“It’s very hot out here,” Lyons said. “But it’s my last year; I’m just trying to roll through and see how far we can go. I’m trying to win a championship.”

Lyon’s transfer has been eased by living with a fellow New Yorker, senior forward Kevin Parrom. Lyons has remained in contact with him since hosting him on a recruiting trip Parrom made to Xavier before committing to Arizona, and has stayed in contact with Parrom through his recovery.

“Parrom is my roommate and he’s from New York, so I knew he’d be my friend,” Lyons said. “He’s been here, he knows the ins and outs of this lifestyle.”

Sean Miller’s press conference
http://www.arizonawildcats.com/allaccess/?media=329550

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