|Kevin Parrom :: George Holland/Cal Sport Media |
In just two season, Sean Miller brought the Wildcats back among the nation's elite. But the offseason was marked with uncertainty. Miller briefly pursued the coaching vacancy at Maryland; Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams left school, opting for the NBA draft; and starting point guard Lamont "Momo" Jones transferred to Iona.
But Miller has recruited so well since moving to Tucson in 2009 that the Wildcats are unlikely to miss Jones and have enough depth and incoming talent to contend for the Pac-12 title.
Seven players will compete for three starting spots, including the one vacated by Williams. Juniors Kevin Parrom and Hill are interchangeable and versatile playing on the wing and inside. Both have averaged at least 20 minutes per game in each of the past two seasons and seem ready to become all-conference players.
Senior Jesse Perry, whose first season in the Pac-10 was a success, will also be in the mix. In 20 minutes per game, Perry averaged 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds and was a useful defensive player.
The most intriguing inside player is 6-11 junior Kyryl Natyazhko, who has now played 69 college games and will be given a chance for an expanded role as a defensive player, screen-setter and rebounder. Freshmen Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol are expected to challenge for immediate playing time, pushing Parrom, junior forward Solomon Hill, Perry and Natyazhko.
With Jones gone, Arizona loses an aggressive, vocal leader. Sophomore combo guard Jordin Mayes appears ready to take on an expanded role, challenging senior Kyle Fogg for minutes. Mayes is a skilled three-point shooter and ballhandler. Fogg is the club's defensive stopper and a reliable scorer who has 85 career starts.
Arizona's two marquee newcomers are point guard Josiah Turner and shooting guard Nick Johnson, a pair of top-30 national recruits who could play their way into the starting lineup.
Angelo Chol (F, Fr.): A shot-blocker and rebounder expected to play 15 to 20 minutes a game as a freshman.
Nick Johnson (G, Fr.): Has the size, athleticism and shooting range to be a dominant Pac-12 player.
Sidiki Johnson (F, Fr.): Inside-outside versatility and shooting range make him a top prospect.
Josiah Turner (G, Fr.): Expected to be the next in long line of lead guards at Point Guard U.