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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona basketball disappointed this season but Wildcats’ future is bright

Arizona+basketball+disappointed+this+season+but+Wildcats+future+is+bright
Gordon Bates

It started with a loss to Seattle Pacific in McKale Center.

The one-point loss was indicative of what was to come for the Arizona men’s basketball team during the 2011-12 season — it was a season of falling just short. Missed buzzer-beaters, off-court player issues, late leads slipping away, devastating injuries and painful one-point losses — that was the Wildcats’ reality in a season in which they were ranked the country’s No. 16 team in the preseason and ended with a premature exit from the National Invitation Tournament.

But before the season even began, the Arizona men’s basketball team was already climbing uphill. Returning junior Kevin Parrom had been shot in late September, making his health a focal point of the program. As the Wildcats traveled near Parrom’s hometown of New York City, Arizona’s off-the-court problems began.

After the UA fell in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden, center Sidiki Johnson was suspended indefinitely and never returned to action. He has since announced his intention to transfer to Providence.

Freshman problems struck again when point guard Josiah Turner was suspended for a violation of team rules and did not travel with the team to Gainesville, Fla., to take on the Florida Gators.

Turner’s problems continued throughout the season, but the biggest issue was when he was suspended for the Pac-12 Tournament in Los Angeles and the NIT. He remained with the team and was present at Arizona’s NIT game against Bucknell, but head coach Sean Miller said there was a list of criteria for Turner to meet before he could officially rejoin.

Parrom returned to the Wildcats in almost miracle fashion, just about two months after he was shot. Like Parrom, even when the Wildcats’ season looked to be down, it was never out. But the injury bug struck again, wiping out Parrom for the year with a broken foot and sidelining sophomore Jordin Mayes for almost a month after a stress reaction in his left foot — the same foot that required offseason surgery.

The Pac-12 season could have gone so differently for the Wildcats if only a few things had changed. Miller said the season came down to a few possessions, and he was right. One-possession losses against Oregon, Colorado and Washington were all crushing during conference season, but nothing was more damaging than the Wildcats’ loss at ASU to close out the regular season.

Not only did it force Arizona to win the Pac-12 Conference Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament, but the loss to the Sun Devils broke the Wildcats’ spirits. The three games in three days that followed in Los Angeles proved too much for the Wildcats to handle. Like the rest of the season, Arizona was there at the end, but Kyle Fogg missed a last-second shot that would have won the game for Arizona.

But despite the turbulent 2011-12 season, it was also one of promise. Junior Solomon Hill showed that he could take over a game. Toward the end of the season, freshman Angelo Chol began to show his shot-blocking ability. Freshman Nick Johnson lived up to his nickname of “Bunnies,” showing outstanding leaping ability that led to a number of highlight blocks and dunks.

And even though the Wildcats lose five players to graduation this offseason, they have the core of Hill, Parrom, Mayes, Chol and Nick Johnson coming back. Turner’s future is still in question, but Arizona has the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation coming in next season.

This year made the Wildcats resilient. And while they met almost none of the goals they set out to achieve at the beginning of the season, the future is bright.

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