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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Hoops wants to start season big

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona mens basketball team hosted Augustana for an exhibition basketball game Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010, at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats rolled to a 70-59 victory.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona men’s basketball team hosted Augustana for an exhibition basketball game Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010, at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats rolled to a 70-59 victory.

Last season, the idea of Arizona having having a prototypical big-man in the regular rotation was a gaze into the distant future.

Standout freshman Derrick Williams was forced to play out of position due to lack of depth on the front line. Despite Williams having one of the best freshman seasons in the nation while playing in the post, the Wildcats were still in need of a true big-man.

As Arizona officially starts its season at McKale Center against Idaho State on Sunday, the future may be closer than expected.

In the weeks leading up to the season, head coach Sean Miller has constantly spoken about the roles that 7-foot junior Alex Jacobson and 6-foot-11 sophomore Kyryl Natyazhko could potentially play on this season’s team.

“”The combination of Kyryl (Natyazhko) and Alex (Jacobson), although they’re different players in some regards and at different stages in their career, really give the same thing in a positive way,”” Miller said. “”Both guys know who they are. Both guys really open scoring opportunities for their teammates by setting screens.

“”They know what to do. They’re big around the basket,”” he added. “”It’s not as easy to score near the basket when they’re in there. If Derrick (Williams) is at the four while they’re at the five, it makes us a more legitimate, physically bigger team.””

Despite overall productive offseasons, both have been struggling with minor injuries. Jacobson has battled reoccurring back spasms, while Natyazhko recently missed the team’s first exhibition game after suffering a concussion in practice.

Wednesday was one of the first days the two got a chance to play against each other, giving both players a chance to see someone of their size in practice.

“”It’s nice to have someone your size in there because little guys just go after your knees,”” Jacobson joked.

The two being back in practice finally give Miller a better idea of how to rotate both players in and out of the game.

“”That’s to be worked out,”” Miller said. “”The reason is that they haven’t practiced together much. When Kyryl (Natyazhko) was practicing, Alex (Jacobson) wasn’t, and when Alex came back Kyryl didn’t practice.””

Jacobson, one of the few leftovers from the Lute Olson era, has had an unspectacular yet steady career at Arizona. The junior has never been known for shot blocking or thunderous dunks but has found his niche after seeing minimal game action.

“”I’m fine with it,”” Jacobson said of receiving spot minutes, which may be his role on the team this year as well. “”It’s pretty much what I expected from the season.””

The big-man’s willingness to accept his role on the team is why he has gained the respect of his coach.

“”Alex (Jacobson’s) play was one of the bright spots to last weekend’s exhibition game,”” Miller said. “”He knows his role. He doesn’t try to be anything that he isn’t.””


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