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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Walk-ons and redshirts play major role for Arizona basketball


Arizona guards Jacob Hazzard (50) and Trey Mason (44) slap hands during Arizona’s 57-34 victory over Oregon State on Jan. 30 in McKale Center. Hazzard and Mason are walk-ons and have a bigger role on the team than the average fan might think.

Sitting at the end of the bench is often a slight used by fans and spectators alike to signify a lack of talent. So called “bench warmers” are the butt of jokes and disregarded in favor of those who put up stats and play the most minutes.

It’s easy to think those who do not play are useless. In today’s media-driven world, everything is on display and those who perform get the most airtime.

In college basketball, the walk-ons and redshirts at the end of the bench suffer from the stigmatism of what they are. What’s often overlooked is how important players 9-15 on the roster are to programs across the nation. Those are the guys running the scout team and making sure the premier players are ready to go come game time.

For Arizona, guys like Jacob Hazzard, Trey Mason and Drew Mellon aren’t guaranteed court time and, honestly, rarely see the court unless it’s a blowout. They are walk-ons, relegated to the end of the bench by choice.

From the outside looking in, it may seem like a thankless job, but guys like Mason said running the scout team is just as important as watching film.

“We’re the guys in practice that it’s pretty much our job to get the guys ready for the next game,” Mason said. “The coaches do a really good job of kind of instilling principles and discipline that guys need.”

It doesn’t hurt that they are all best friends. Hazzard said Mason and Mellon are two of his best friends and loves competing with them.

“Drew and Trey are two of my best friends and we do this together,” Hazzard said. “We take pride in our role and we know it helps the team a lot. We know millions of plays; it’s crazy. We take advantage of it and try to keep all the plays we know.”

Add in redshirts like Kadeem Allen and Ryan Anderson, and the Wildcats that do play considerable minutes have solid competition in practice. Few teams in the nation can employ talent like Allen and Anderson for their stars to play against on a daily basis.

Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is one of the most important players on the roster and said he understands how tough they really are. In particular, Hollis-Jefferson singled out Allen as someone who improves the team.

“Kadeem is a tough, tough, guy to guard, I would say,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “When you guard him, it’s definitely like you’re guarding any guard in the country. He’s definitely one of the best players I’ve played.”

That’s big praise coming from a guy who guards the best opponent wing every single game.

Whether walk-on or redshirt, Wildcats say they do their job willingly and love helping the team succeed.

“We go over out-of-bounds plays, all kinds of plays, just to get our guys familiar with what they’re [going to] see out there when they go out for the game,” Hazzard said. “We know it’s never identical to what they’re [going to do because] we can’t simulate everything, but we just want to get a feel for them. Just when we come out we’re not surprised by anything and just they know what’s coming, what’s not coming, what to expect.”


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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