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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Growing up

    Arizona men’s basketball players Momo Jones, Solomon Hill and DJ Shumpert gingerly walked into the McKale Center media room Thursday.

    Sitting for 25 minutes, the press conference was probably a welcome rest for the Wildcat players compared to the post-semester practices head coach Sean Miller has been putting them through.

    “”If Coach has to run us to death and make us throw up every night and make us come in for three practices, he’s going to do it,”” Jones said of Miller, who was not available to the media. “”The past three days … it’s been tough. I mean tough with a capital T.””

    Four days before Arizona (4-5) will take on Lipscomb University (4-5) Monday at 7 p.m. in McKale Center, the players were open in talking about the team’s struggles for the entire 25 minutes.

    No longer was the talk about playing better man-to-man defense or rebounding the ball. No more was the team’s youth an excuse for a non-conference schedule of wild ups and downs.

    “”You’re going to get better right now — today,”” Jones said. “”We don’t have time to dwell in the past, we don’t have time to hang our heads down and say, ‘Aw, we messed up a play.'””

    Miller has implemented running drills for the entire team when even one player makes a mistake in practice. That has perhaps facilitated a focus that has been lacking, but it also proves another point — win as a team, lose as a team.

    Hill said a large problem has been the players getting used to Miller’s system, one that does not rely heavily on one player in the offense. With a roster full of playmakers who were required to have the ball in their hands throughout high school and even college, the adjustment has sometimes been frustrating.

    “”You can see some frustration in peoples’ eyes,”” Hill said. “”You can tell they think some guys are taking too many shots. Once a guy gets frustrated you can see he might miss a play. I don’t think everybody’s buying into what Coach is doing.””

    And everyone must adjust to setting screens and moving without the ball rather than creating a shot for themselves or their teammates, Jones said.

    “”I mean, nobody on our team is Kobe Bryant or LeBron James,”” the guard out of Harlem, N.Y. added. “”It’s frustrating but at the same time it’s a system that works. It worked (under Miller at Xavier), it can work here.””

    Instead, the team has struggled with its offense, particularly on the road.

    “”At McKale we can make mistakes but the crowd is always behind us so we can recover,”” Shumpert said. “”On the road, our mistakes are amplified.

    “”The crowd gets into it and there’s even more pressure on us,”” he added.

    A stagnant offense has hurt Arizona and forced veterans like point guard Nic Wise and forward Jamelle Horne to force tough shots. When that happens, the rest of the offense stalls.

    Another reason for a struggling offense has been Arizona’s struggles on defense. Without enough stops, Jones said the team hasn’t been able to get easy buckets in transition.

    “”I don’t think Coach wants to run as many (set) plays as we run,”” Jones said. “”If we get stops we can run and play the fast-paced game that we’re used to playing and that Arizona is used to seeing.””

    With classes over with for the fall semester, the Wildcats now look toward the Lipscomb Bisons, a Division I school from the Atlantic Sun Conference. But more importantly, they hope to improve the most during what the players said were the more intense practices of the year.

    Jones said there were two simple fixes to the team’s problems, both of which begin with pushing through Miller’s practices.

    “”Without focusing and hard work—without those two components—there’s no life on the court, basically,”” Jones said. “”You’re just out there to be out there.””

    Added Hill: “”There’s only so many lessons that you take when you lose. It’s what you do next to prepare for the next one.”” 

    And 1

    Wise is 18 points shy of 1,000 career points at Arizona. When he reaches that milestone, he will be the 44th Wildcat to do so in program history. 

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