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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Hoops gets rolling with Red/Blue scrimmage

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Wildcats trumped the Stanford Cardinal 74-68 Thursday in McKale Center.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Wildcats trumped the Stanford Cardinal 74-68 Thursday in McKale Center.

The Arizona basketball team has had its longest offseason in 25 years.

After losing to UCLA in the Pacific 10 Conference tournament, the Wildcats failed to make both the NCAA tournament and the National Invitational Tournament, ending its historic 25-year NCAA streak and sending them on a seven-month vacation.

The Wildcats will play in front of a crowd for the first time since having its tournament streak ended at Staples Center on March 11 as the team prepares for its annual Red and Blue scrimmage in McKale Center on Sunday.

Though the scrimmage is held to give the fans a glimpse of the team before the season, coaches and players are ready to start the process of getting over one of the program’s most disappointing seasons in over a quarter century.

“”Like a lot of programs, it’s been a work in progress, in our case, for a lot of months,”” said Arizona head coach Sean Miller. “”It’s been a lot of conversations, a lot of work individually, for our players and coaching staff to prepare for an improved season.””

The Red and Blue scrimmage is a game in which players typically want to put on a show offensively, but Miller expects to see his players work on the defense and rebounding fundamentals they’ve focused on throughout the first week of practice.

“”We’ll have enough in for the Red/Blue game to take the ball out of bounds,”” Miller said of what to expect from the players in the scrimmage. “”It’ll be very simple in our approach; it’ll be about playing hard and playing together.

“”Initially we’re trying to see the things in front of a crowd that we’re doing in practice,”” he added. “”Offensive rebounding if you’re supposed to offensive rebound and team defense.””

Since the first day of official practice last Friday, the Arizona coaching staff has placed an emphasis on team defense, with mostly drill work preaching defense.

According to the NCAA website the Wildcats ranked 264th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 72 points a game last season.

“”We’re building our team defense. There is a lot of that going,”” Miller said. “”We want to improve our two point field goal defense. That’s our focus.””

“”A lot of it has to do with playing with great effort, getting used to playing with that effort all the time,”” he added. “”We want to get to the point when we start our season we’re prepared for anything that our opponent does.””

Overall, the Wildcats should improve on defense now that players know what the coaches expect of them defensively, entering the second year in the Miller era.

“”In relationships period, it’s difficult to trust people that you barely know,”” Miller said. “”We’ve going through 18 months now, so it’s easy for everybody to be on the same page.””

Miller comes into this season with a much deeper roster, so the freshman won’t be relied upon as much as last year’s incoming class, when Miller routinely started and rotated four freshmen.

“”A year ago I didn’t know if Derrick Williams was going to play five minutes or 20 minutes,”” Miller said. “”I never could’ve guessed he would be the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, but he evolved and improved.

“”Jordin Mayes, Jesse Perry and Daniel Bejarano will go through that same transformation, except it’s not dire straits whether they do it or not,”” he added. “”We have a number of guys in place.””

What to look for during scrimmage

New Additions

The newcomers will get their first chance to show the McKale Center crowd who they are.  Everyone will see if Jesse Perry, Daniel Bejarano and Jordin Mayes are really the players that recruiting websites hyped them up to be. How athletic is Jesse Perry? Can Jordin Mayes shoot the ball? Does Daniel Bejarano have to potential to be another great Phoenix-area Wildcat?

 

Momo era

Nic Wise is over in Germany playing point guard, so that means the “”Point guard U”” throne belongs to Momo Jones. Last season Jones struggled to adjust to college basketball early but came around in the second half of the season. This year the keys are his, and Sunday will be his first chance to show he can handle it.

 

Is Natyazhko really improved?

In the summer, so much was made about Kyryl Natyazhko’s performance in the U-20 European Championships for the Ukraine in which he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds. Now everyone will see whether Natyazhko can take some pressure off of Derrick Williams or if the center still needs time to grow.

 

First of many lasts for Jamelle Horne

Senior year for an athlete is filled with many lasts.

 

The last home opener.

 

The last road game.

For Jamelle Horne this is his last chance to show why he was a five star recruit coming out of high school. On Sunday he will play in his last Red/Blue game which could be the start to an impressive senior year after three inconsistent seasons.

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