|Arizona's players pose as they prep for the jetski tours. (Arizona Athletics)|
In our Trippin' series, we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Check here for all Trippin'-related stories.
Sean Miller got his first look at his new-look Arizona Wildcats in two games down in the Bahamas last week. This team looks nothing like the one from a year ago, with numerous additions and also a couple of holdovers that don't look like the same players from a year ago.
Miller had virtually no size last season. Now he brought in a recruiting class that included three of the country's elite big men: 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, 6-foot-10 Grant Jerrett and 6-foot-8 Brandon Ashley. There's also sophomore Angelo Chol to mix in on the frontline. He also added one-year Xavier transfer Mark Lyons, who is almost certain to start at the point guard spot; and Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes are both healthy after dealing with significant injuries last year.
"I like this team," Miller said. "We have a nice combination of youth and experience."
The teams in the Bahamas witnessed the talent first-hand. Arizona crushed the first team by 67 points and then won the second game, 99-57.
"The competition," Miller said. "Wasn't the greatest, but we got a lot out of the trip and also the practices leading up to the trip."
What Miller learned: "Both Jordin Mayes and Kevin Parrom got a lot from this trip. People forget how much time Mayes missed last year. He missed about 14 weeks and was cleared the first day of practice. Kevin had a tough year, both personally and on the court, but he looked great and led us in scoring. They both looked healthy and that's important for them and for us."
Who stood out: "Parrom, Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons -- our three veterans. Those were three of our most productive players."
Biggest concern: "Our big guys are talented, but they are young. There's going to be an adjustment, especially with all the different defenses they are going to see this year -- trapping the post, physical, zones. It's not as easy for big guys to adapt. We need to try and simplify things, but there's no question about their upside."
- Miller said that Parrom, who was shot in the leg last September and also lost his mother three weeks later, looked terrific. "The trip was better for him than anyone else. He looked 100 percent or pretty close. It was great to watch him be himself again." Miller said it was a difficult decision whether to redshirt Parrom last season or try and get him back on the court. Parrom wound up missing the first two games, playing the next 20 and then suffering a season-ending foot injury. "There's no manual that tells you what to do in that situation," Miller said. "You worry about how it affects him mentally if he's not able to travel or be a part of the team."
- Miller said that Arizona will attempt to petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Parrom after this, his senior season. "We think that, due to the circumstances and everything Kevin went through," Miller said. "We'll see what happens.'
- Arizona will have versatility this season, with the ability to play big or small. For instance, Miller could put out a perimeter lineup of Lyons, Mayes and sophomore Nick Johnson -- or go with a much bigger lineup with the 6-foot-6 Parrom and the 6-foot-7 Hill at both wing spots. He could also experiment by throwing all three of his freshmen out there at the same time: 6-foot-8 Ashley at the small forward spot, 6-foot-10 Jerrett at power forward and the 7-foot Tarczewski in the middle. "
- Miller had recruited Lyons from his days as the head coach at Xavier and understands it'll be a process for him to be comfortable at the point guard spot, but one area he figures will come immediately for Lyons is his defensive play. "I forgot how quick and talented he is on the defensive end." Miller lost his top perimeter defender in Kyle Fogg, but expects Lyons to fill that void this season.
- Miller raved about his young big men in a variety of ways, but most of all about their ability to pass the ball. "That's rare," he said. "That'll really help our other kids."
- It'll be interesting to see how much talented freshman guard Gabe York plays this season. For a while, when Josiah Turner was dismissed from the team, it appeared as though he would be a major factor this season. However, with the late addition of Lyons, he know becomes the fourth "true" guard behind Lyons, Johnson and Mayes.
- Miller reiterated that lock big man Matt Korchek is expected to redshirt this season and, thus, played sparingly on the trip. The only player who did not play is Duquesne transfer T.J. McConell, who will sit out this season and have two remaining in Tucson.
- Here are a few numbers from the trip: Parrom and Lyons each averaged 18.5 points in the two wins. Parrom made 6-of-10 shots from deep while Lyons was 8-of-12. Hill finished with six points in the first game and then went for 17 in the second game. Ashley averaged 13 points and 8.5 boards, Jerrett put up 10.5 points and seven boards and Tarczewski finished with eight points and 7.5 rebounds. Johnson only averaged 10.5 points, but had eight assists and six steals in the second contest. Mayes averaged 6.5 points and four assists.