Tag: Sean Miller

Associated Press

Depth, guard play make the difference for No. 12 Arizona


TUCSON, Arizona — After winning 35 games and reaching the Elite Eight last season, No. 12 Arizona had to address the fact that four starters from that team had moved on.

And with three of those players currently in the NBA, addressing those losses would not be a simple task for Sean Miller and his coaching staff. But what will help in that quest is Arizona’s depth, and that attribute was on display Thursday night as they beat Boise State 88-76 in an unbracketed game in the Wooden Legacy.

On a night that saw senior center Kaleb Tarczewski account for just four points and nine rebounds and Ryan Anderson (15 rebounds) finish with only eight points on 4-for-13 shooting, other players managed to step forward. Dusan Ristic gave the Wildcats a valuable eight points and five rebounds off the bench, and Arizona’s guards stepped forward on both ends of the floor as well.

Of those perimeter players Gabe York led the way, scoring his 23 points (7-for-12 FG) on multiple levels and being a tough cover for Boise State’s guards. But the looks York managed to connect on would not have been present without the help of his teammates.

“Everyone did a great job of trying to find me, and when I took a bad shot, no one was upset because I think I shot the ball pretty well tonight,” York said after the game. “Parker (Jackson-Cartwright) found me a lot in transition. Kadeem (Allen) did a great job of finding me, and I was able to knock down shots.”

The 6-foot-3 senior guard is a prime example of what can happen when a player sticks to the process, steadily honing his skills and earning more playing time ahead of a final campaign in which the opportunities to score would be plentiful. After averaging 9.2 points per game as a junior York entered Thursday’s game as one of four Wildcats in double figures, and his performance was one reason why Arizona was able to gain some separation in the second half as the visiting Broncos became stagnant offensively.

York was one of four guards to finish the game in double figures Thursday night, but it could be argued that the most important of those contributions (with an eye towards the future) came from Jackson-Cartwright and Allen.

Those two have the difficult task of stepping into the lead guard role left vacant by the departure of McConnell, who was a floor general in every sense of the phrase. But for Arizona to be successful they don’t have to be McConnell, because Allen and Jackson-Cartwright’s respective games differ from the current Philadelphia 76er.

Against Boise State Jackson-Cartwright provided the early spark, coming off the bench to score 12 of his 14 points in the first half and providing a much-needed supplement to York’s offensive output. Allen grabbed the baton in the second half, tallying eight points (he finished with ten) and five assists (six for the game) with just one turnover. Add in Trier scoring 11 of his 13 in the second half, and Arizona had enough production to hold off Boise State’s two-headed front court monster of James Webb III (27 points, nine rebounds) and Nick Duncan (21 points).

“Parker was a big reason we won the game and so was Alonzo,” Miller said. “I talked to both guys after the game…I was disappointed in the way we finished the game with both of them in, because in my opinion if we didn’t have the performance from either one of them we would not have been in the winner’s circle.”

It is early in the season, but it’s apparent that instead of having that single stalwart to call upon at the point Arizona has two players capable of shepherding the team. Before the season began Allen was labeled by some as the “scoring” point guard with Jackson-Cartwright filling the role of distributor. But Thursday night both showed the ability to do things outside of the labels affixed to them, and that can only benefit the Wildcats moving forward.

“(Kadeem) makes me better every day, and I try to do the same with him,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “He is a bigger, stronger guard. He can get into the pain as well as shoot. Going against him every day has been tremendous in making me better.”

On a night in which their leading scorer entering the game shot 4-f0r-13 from the field, Arizona managed to shoot better than 54 percent from the field and 10-for-21 from beyond the arc. Add in a 38-3 edge in bench points, and it’s easy to see why the Wildcats were able to pull away from a game Boise State squad.

At this point in time Arizona may not have the decisive answers at some positions that are generally demanded in college basketball, but they do have a lot of options. And that’s a good “issue” to have if you’re Sean Miller.

Freshman wing Ray Smith healthy and ready to go for Arizona

2014 NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp
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Arizona will have a very different roster from last season in terms of players receiving regular minutes and one of the new players expected to compete for early minutes is freshman wing Ray Smith. A talented 6-foot-8 wing from Las Vegas, Smith tore his ACL during the July live evaluation period during the summer of 2014, costing him his senior season of high school basketball.

But Smith worked hard during rehab and is ready to enter college basketball completely healthy, according to head coach Sean Miller. In an interview with Bruce Pascoe, Miller explained how hard Smith worked to be in a position to play right away for the Wildcats:

“Ray’s cleared for everything right now. Him and his dad did an incredible job going from last summer when he sustained the injury to being patient and yet super aggressive in the rehabilitation process. And he came to us at a really good place. We were really careful the first couple of months that he was here to make sure his strength level in both legs was good. …

“He loves the game. He’s really talented. When I look at him, he reminds me in some ways of a bouncier Solomon Hill in that he’s 6-8, he has a great skill level shooting, he’s a very creative, unselfish passer and he’s fluid in transition. We have high hopes for him. He can play small forward, and like all the guys who play small forward for us, sometimes we play them at the four.”

Miller goes into detail about other players on the Arizona roster, including other newcomers, in Pascoe’s full interview, but it’s especially good to see that Smith is back to full strength. Regarded as a five-star prospect, Smith was kind of a forgotten player in the Class of 2015 since he hasn’t played much in the past year, but he has a chance to open some eyes with his play early if he’s completely ready to go.

U19 World Championships produce different defensive approach for Arizona’s Sean Miller

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A trademark for Arizona teams in recent years has been their stinginess on the defensive end of the floor, with the Wildcats using the pack line defense to limit quality looks in the paint. In each of the last two seasons Sean Miller’s teams have been ranked in the top five in adjusted defensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy, leading the country in 2013-14 and finishing third in that category this past season.

Yet while that stifling half-court defense will be something he looks to call upon while coaching the United States U19 team at the upcoming FIBA U19 World Championships, the team’s depth and athleticism have resulted in a slight change to Miller’s usual defensive approach. The Americans will use a full-court press after every made basket and dead ball in this event, as noted in a story written by Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star.

The goal, just as it was two years ago when the U19 team led by Billy Donovan with Miller and Ed Cooley serving as assistants won gold, is to speed up the game against teams that will in all likelihood aim to keep the action at a more methodical pace.

While the Wildcats press only in spot situations, USA Basketball believes a constantly pressing defense and energetic, well-spaced offense can maximize the talent, length and athleticism advantages the Americans tend to have in international competition.

So USA Basketball plays differently. And Miller will coach differently.

“When the press is great, is when he (opposing ballhandler) catches the ball, you speed him up, and he turns without you fouling,” Miller tells the players.

This will be interesting to watch, especially when considering the fact that since FIBA changed the scheduling of this event to every other year in 2007 (as opposed to every four years) the United States has yet to win back-to-back gold medals. This is a roster filled with athletic players who can make things happen in the open floor, and the pressure defense can make the Americans even more difficult for opponents to deal with.

The United States tips off its tournament June 27 with a pool play game against Iran.