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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



Unlike the past few years, the Arizona men’s basketball team already has a vision for the identity into which it hopes to mold itself this season.

Sean Miller’s philosophies require a roster with versatile players, and that will definitely be showcased throughout his first season as head coach. There’s no doubt the 2009 team, despite being young, knows its strengths.

“”A ton of talent, a ton of versatility,”” said junior Jamelle Horne. “”We’ve got a lot of versatility at each position.””

Those are the types of players Miller recruited to Arizona before he even coached his first game.

His five-man freshmen class reflects the desire to break down position stereotypes. Freshmen Kyryl Natyazhko, Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Momo Jones all have games not definable by passer, shooter or scorer.

“”I think the interchangable type of players are the ones you can build a program with,”” Miller said before the start of the season.

His players aren’t point guards or power forwards. They’re basketball players, and that mentality is one fans can expect when watching a Sean Miller team play.

Arizona has long been known as an uptempo school, thanks to former head coach Lute Olson’s development of NBA-caliber point guards.

Pushing the ball up the court will continue under Miller, but his teams will not necessarily become reliant upon the point guard controlling the fast break.

A perfect example of how Miller will force the tempo by taking advantage of versatility, Hill, a point guard in a small forward’s body, has the green light to bring the ball up the court after a defensive rebound.

“”It’s basically the reason why I came here,”” Hill said. “”(After a rebound) it doesn’t have to go to (point guard Nic Wise). Coach gave me permission and I can push the ball as soon as I get the rebound.””

Catching the opposition’s defense off guard and putting it into a hectic backpedal will be that much easier with Miller allowing skilled wings to, in essence, play point guard. Parrom, a 6-foot-6 small forward, will also be relied upon in that aspect.

Historically at Xavier, those same philosophies led to Miller’s squads being strong at distributing points to all five players on the floor. In the 2008-09 season, eight of Miller’s players averaged at least five points per game, while no player averaged more than 14.1 every night. Still, the team scored liberally at 71.7 points per game.

The versatility of the freshman players will add to the Wildcat’s defensive plans as well.

“”(Hill and Parrom are) guys who can play different positions and pass and understand how to play as a team,”” Miller said. “”Usually those type of players can defend multiple positions as well.””

Miller’s ball-pressuring, man-to-man defense being able to make switches across screens helps improve the defensive efficiency. When the defense holds the opposition, then the Wildcats can begin their fast breaks with haste.

In order to keep his players fresh and able to play all out on both ends of the court, Miller will again look toward player versatility to make an already deep roster even deeper.

With guys like Hill and Parrom able to play either wing position and Jones able to play at the point or shooting guard slots, the flexibility in substitution patterns increase so the team will be able to go big or small, and create mismatches with the other team.

The Wildcats’ versatility lends itself to every aspect of what Miller is hoping to develop. In the end, coordinating different lineups will take time. So will the players’ ability to find their role on a team full of question marks. But make no mistake about it: Miller has an identity and style he’s hoping to create.

It doesn’t start with a group of small forwards, point guards and centers. It starts with a team of basketball players.


Impact Freshmen

Name: Solomon Hill

Nickname: Solo

Size: 6-foot-6, 230 pounds

High School: Fairfax

Hometown: Los Angeles

Strengths: vision and passing.

Combine his size and rebounding ability with his great vision and Hill is a one-man fast break. He has all the tools to be considered the player with the most potential, mostly due to his high basketball IQ.

Needs to improve: shooting.

If Hill ever extends his range to the three-point line, watch out. While he won’t be needed to shoot many jumpers now, that’s what will make or break Hill playing at the next level.



Name: Lamont Jones

Nickname: Momo

Size: 6-foot, 200 pounds

High school: Oak Hill Academy

Hometown: Harlem, N.Y.

Strengths: toughness.

The Harlem, N.Y., native plays like he’s willing to dive onto the Big Apple’s asphalt playground courts for a loose ball. At 200 pounds, Jones is physically superior to most other freshman point guards and that will only help him make an immediate impact.

Needs to improve: point guard skills.

More of a scoring, combo guard, Jones will need to learn how to control the tempo of his team, a la Nic Wise. If he can keep his team calm, then Wise will get the needed time on the bench to have energy down the stretch.


Name: Kyryl Natyazhko

Nickname: The Ukraine Train or K-Real

Size: 6-foot-10, 255 pounds

High School: IMG Academy

Hometown: Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Strengths: upside.

Natyazhko has the build to put on some muscle and the basic tools to become a complete inside-out player. Head coach Sean Miller can only hope he puts together some of those tools this year, as he is the only true big-man on the roster.

Needs to improve: intensity and conditioning.

Natyazhko is still getting used to the speed of the college game. With that comes reaching a fitness level capable of carrying his 250-pound frame the length of the court.


Name: Kevin Parrom

Nickname: KP3

Size: 6-foot-6, 205 pounds

High school: South Kent School

Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.

Strengths: a great feel for the game.

Whether he’s finding the open man while being double-teamed or grabbing an offensive rebound and trying for a put-back, Parrom always seems like he knows what to do next. Nothing surprises him and he’ll take whatever the opposing team throws at him.

Needs to improve: aggressiveness.

While Parrom might not see the playing time nor the role to be a top scorer, he’ll eventually need to be comfortable being counted upon in that department.

Name: Derrick Williams

Nickname: D-Will

Size: 6-foot-8, 235 pounds

High School: La Mirada

Hometown: La Mirada

Strengths: raw athleticism.

Williams has already been called the strongest player on the team by Miller and has the greatest amount of pure athleticism to become a great inside presence for Arizona.

Needs to improve: court awareness.

Williams sometimes looks lost on the court and will rely on his athleticism over technique in his defense and rebounding. That being said, the California native will still get high percentage shots around the basket.

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