No. 7 Arizona gets big boost from Trier's return
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Allonzo Trier had a long, strange journey while waiting to be cleared after inadvertently using performance-enhancing drugs, never knowing when that day might come.
When it finally did, the emotions washed over Arizona's sophomore guard.
''I broke down when I was told,'' Trier said Thursday after his first home game with the seventh-ranked Wildcats. ''It was an emotional moment for me.''
Trier was expected to be the key cog in Arizona's lineup after bypassing a shot at the NBA to return for his sophomore season.
The athletic 6-foot-5 guard had a strong freshman year after being the marquee player in coach Sean Miller's recruiting class, averaging 14.8 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the floor. He was expected to be even better this season and become a leader for the Wildcats and Miller's latest blue chip class.
Instead, he mysteriously faded into the background.
Trier was replaced at the last minute for Pac-12 media day in October and opened the season in street clothes, suspended for reasons not disclosed by the university.
The suspension remained in place well into January as speculation grew about the reason Trier wasn't playing.
News broke last week that Trier had tested positive for a PED and he quickly issued a statement, saying he was given a banned substance by a well-intentioned but misguided person not affiliated with the university following an injury.
Trier won an appeal with the NCAA to a yearlong suspension in November, but he had to wait until the substance completely cleared his system. The suspension lasted 19 games and he was finally cleared for Saturday's game against UCLA, contributing 12 points in the 96-85 road victory.
Trier played his first game at McKale Center on Thursday against Washington State and was greeted with a standing ovation when he entered early in the first half. He ended up leading Arizona with 17 points and dished out seven assists in the 79-62 victory.
''It was a great feeling,'' Trier said. ''It felt like it was an eternity for how long I haven't played in there. But I was really excited, the energy was great.''
Though Trier wasn't allowed to play during his suspension, he was able to practice and be around his teammates. Not knowing when the suspension would end was tough, but he prepared as if the next game on the schedule would be his first.
''I was always in the gym, I practiced with my teammates every day and I tried to make an impact in any way I could,'' he said. ''So even though I couldn't play, I tried to be there for my teammates and cheer them on. And in practice I tried to do my part and practicing hard and helping these guys get prepared for the games.''
Trier gives Arizona a huge boost as it heads toward March. While numerous teams are losing players to injuries and other circumstances, the Wildcats have added one of the best players in the Pac-12, a proven scorer with a knack for making big shots.
But with that comes an adjustment period.
Without Trier, Miller had to shift his lineup around, giving some players more responsibility and playing time. Those will both change now that Trier is back and some players will have to adapt to different roles.
There also will be a mesh factor. Though Trier has been practicing all along, there's a different dynamic during games, so Miller will have to figure out rotations and the players will have to get a feel for playing with their old-but-new teammate.
Trier said after Thursday's game that it ''feels funny'' on the court at times and Miller used similar words to describe Arizona's game against Washington State.
''Everybody else has to learn their role, (Trier) has to learn his and I think that as we keep moving forward, it will even out as it always does,'' Miller said. ''Every game that goes by, he'll eventually settle in.''
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