Sean Miller

Is Sean Miller concerned about Arizona’s perimeter game?

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Arizona is a sure bet to begin the season ranked in the Top 10, and may even crack the Top 5. They have one of the top recruits in the country in Aaron Gordon who will make his presence immediately felt. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be one of the top freshmen in the country next year, alongside Gordon. T.J. McConnell, a transfer from Duquesne who sat out last season, will be the starting point guard.

What is there for Sean Miller to be concerned about?

Coaches always find something that has them worried; it’s seemingly in their DNA for this to happen. For Sean Miller, Arizona’s perimeter game may be an area that has him a little uneasy heading into the 2013-14 season — a season in which much is expected of the Wildcats. The three point shot was a big part of Arizona’s offense last season as they attempted 675 threes (56th in the country), and connected on 37.1% of their attempted (45th in the country).

With graduation claiming Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, and Kevin Parrom, plus Grant Jerrett leaving for the NBA after his freshman year, Arizona is without four of their top perimeter threats. Only rising junior guard Nick Johnson is a proven perimeter threat from last year’s squad. However, McConnell is a solid three point shooter as he connected on 43.2% of his attempts at Duquesne in 2011-12.

Miller told the Daily Wildcat, “I don’t think there’s a college basketball program of the 347 that have shot more basketballs than we have this summer.”

Now, Miller’s comment can be interpreted one of two ways: 1) The three point shot will remain a big part of Arizona’s offense, and the fact they have put up so many shots over the summer reaffirms that. Or, 2) Having lost four perimeter threats from last year’s team, Miller has deemed it important that other players emerge to fill these roles.

According to Miller, rising sophomore forward Brandon Ashley’s shot has improved.

While Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson are poised to have a huge freshmen seasons, they are both streaky shooters that won’t be relied on to hit the outside shot.

That leaves rising senior guard Jordin Mayes as a player Miller may look to as a source for outside scoring. As a freshman, Mayes was one of Arizona’s best three point shooters (45.3%), but last year he shot just 30.8% from beyond the arc. Along with Mayes, Gabe York will most likely see additional minutes in the back court as a shooting guard. Ranked as one of the top shooters in the country for the class of 2012 recruiting class, York saw minutes sparingly last season.

Am I nitpicking by scrutinizing Arizona’s perimeter game? Probably. But, so too is Sean Miller.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.