Arizona came within one possession of a Final Four appearance, and that was without the services of sophomore forward Brandon Ashley for the final 16 games of the season.
The 6-foot-8 Ashley suffered a broken right foot in a Feb. 1 loss — Arizona’s first of the season — to Cal. The injury required season-ending surgery. After a slow recovery, Ashley was cleared to play in August and earlier this week Arizona head coach Sean Miller updated Ashley’s status during a podcast with Andy Katz of ESPN.
“If you watch him in practice he runs like nothing happened,” Miller said. “It’s his third year for us as a starter. … He’s one of our natural leaders. We’re optimistic he’ll have a big season for us.”
Ashley showed improvement from his freshman to sophomore seasons, averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 22 appearances with the Wildcats, shooting better than 52 percent from the field for the second straight season.
A healthy Ashley will be a big part of Arizona’s attempt to build off of last season’s Elite 8 run. Even without Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, Arizona still has one of the more talented rosters in the country with the likes of newcomer Stanley Johnson joining returners Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kaleb Tarczewski and T.J. McConnell.
Arizona begins the season on Nov. 14 against Mount St. Mary’s at home.