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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Freshmen debut in scrimmage (w/ Video)

Naturally as the program’s poster boy, senior point guard Nic Wise will be called upon to make his teammates better all season.

Sunday afternoon at the annual Red/Blue intrasquad scrimmage, he did so without even playing.

Wise’s absence — he was out with an ankle injury — gave freshman Lamont “”Momo”” Jones a first taste of a college basketball atmosphere after 8,100 fans showed up to McKale Center.

Jones, an animated yet confident 6-foot point guard from Harlem, N.Y., finished with a scrimmage-high 21 points combined in eight-minute quarters. The Blue team won the first half 33-24 and the Red team won the second 44-36.

First-year UA coach Sean Miller said Wise should return sometime this week and it’ll be a game-time decision Wednesday whether he plays in Arizona’s first exhibition game against Augustana College.

“”Nic Wise is our team’s most experienced player. He’s the one the least that I worry about,”” Miller said. “”If there’s a silver lining to Nic’s injury, … it really forced the rest of the team to come back and allowed some of our younger players to improve more.””

Said Wise on his Twitter page: “”Had a good crowd at the Red/Blue game. Learned a lot about the team.””

The crowd, which gave the loudest pre-game ovation to Wise, had a first look at the five new freshmen which all contributed to the even point distribution.

Center Kyryl Natyazhko, who matched up against Derrick Williams in the post, scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

“”For our first real up and down, some guys felt more comfortable than others,”” said junior Jamelle Horne, who scored 17 points. “”For the first go at it, I was pretty impressed.””

The game-like environment gave Miller a first look at the way his team reacts and responds to different scenarios.

Still, more questions than answers linger beyond Wise and sophomore Kyle Fogg in the frontcourt. Miller said Brendon Lavender has become one of the team’s most pure shooters. Lavender went 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, while Horne was 1-for-6.

Without Zane Johnson, an ex-UA wing who transferred this offseason, the Wildcats are left without a go-to, 3-point shooter.

Although starting roles have yet to be defined, Miller will breakdown the game tape to better evaluate rotations.

“”You always learn more under that microscope than you do in practice,”” Miller said. “”It’s a great time for us to teach. If we would’ve had this game last weekend, I don’t believe the quality of play in certain aspects would’ve been as high.

“”You can see as the season grows, we have a tremendous opportunity to get better and improve,”” Miller added. “”Even in our sophomore class … those individual players tend to get better.””

Three things we learned:

  1. There’s still a lot to learn and roles to be defined. Of all the freshman, Derrick Williams and Lamont “”MoMo”” Jones looked the closest to game-ready.
  2. Freshman Kyryl Natyazhko could earn big minutes by default purely based on his size and Arizona’s lack of frontcourt depth. He could split time with Williams at the post.
  3. Redshirt sophomore Alex Jacobson said he sees himself as a role player this season. Over the summer, Jacobson worked on his outside shots.

Impact player:

  • Lamont “”MoMo”” Jones. 21 points. He brought intensity and flashed the crowd a big smile.

What’s next:

  • Arizona vs. Augustana College (exhibition). Wednesday, 7 p.m.

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