There are big expectations coming out of Tucson for Sean Miller’s 2012-13 Wildcats. Many expecting a Pac-12 title. Many expecting a deep run in the NCAA tournament. This team is a collection upper class leadership and great young depth that look to make those expectations a reality.
Finally, there is size. No longer is a 6’8” Derrick Williams or a 6’6” Jessie Perry the biggest player on the floor. And with some off the court distractions from the 2011-12 season behind them, the Wildcats look to expect more from themselves than those who follow them.
The New Faces:
There are many new faces to this team that are going to make an immediate and enormous impact. Quite possibly no one more so than senior transfer Mark Lyons from Xavier. Lyons was recruited by Miller back while at Xavier and since Lyons has already graduated from Xavier, he is taking advantage of a one time transfer rule for players with one more year of eligibility to go to another school as a graduate student and not have to sit out a year. A trend we have seen from a decent amount of players of late. Michigan State took advantage of that last season with Brandon Wood who ended up being the Spartans third leading scorer.
Lyons could ultimately make an even bigger impact than what Wood did last season. He averaged 15 points, about three rebounds and about three assists while at Xavier but that was in a backcourt along side Tu Holloway. Now Lyons is the leader in the back court and now as the one slated to be the starter at the point, those assists numbers should jump considerably. By season’s end, Lyons could be the most valuable player of this team.
The Wildcats bring in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation including three of the top five big men according to ESPN. Brandon Ashley, out of Findlay Prep in Las Vegas is the headliner. The 6’8” 235 pound forward has immense talent and is drawing comparisons to former Wildcat Richard Jefferson. He has the ability to score in the post and on the perimeter. Will also be a key contributor on the boards as he averaged close to seven a game in high school.
Grant Jerrett, the 6’10” 235 pound forward from La Verne, California, has exceeded expectations in the pre-season going into the start of the year. During his recruitment he was touted as a great scorer in the post with a great skill around the rim. However, most were not aware of his perimeter game as well coming out of high school which was on display at the red/blue game.
The other two freshman look to be key contributors as well. Kaleb Tarczewski, 7’0” 255 pound center from Claremont, New Hampshire, brings a low post presence along with a skill level the team quite possibly hasn’t seen in that spot since Loren Woods on the 2001 team. 6’2” guard Gabe York is a player Miller will develop but in the immediate future is a player that can shoot the ball from all over the court and could be a big factor off the bench throughout the season.
The Old Faces:
Without question senior Solomon Hill is the leader of this team and not just because he along with Kevin Parrom are the longest tenured players currently on the roster, but because of his example. Hill trimmed down and lost 20 pounds in the off-season. His main focus for his game was his perimeter game which could only help this up-tempo team. Hill is a true example of what four years can do for a player and a big senior season could raise him to levels that exceed the expectations that were on him when he first arrived in Tucson.
The other senior Kevin Parrom had to deal with unfathomable situations off the court and then a broken foot that forced him to miss the remainder of the year. Parrom is now only looking ahead and continue to be the jack of all trades from this team.
Nick Johnson and Jordin Mayes are very key contributors to this team and that has been seen from both of them during their time in Tucson. Consistency is the biggest thing for both of these players to take their game to the next level. Johnson now has a full season under his belt and Mayes is finally healthy after dealing with a stress fracture in his foot.
Angelo Chol was a monster in some games for the Wildcats as a freshman last season because of his great presence in the paint. His ability to block shots and defend in the post are huge for the team and was relied on heavily last season in that role. Despite the fact that size is no longer an issue for this team, his continuous growth in controlling the paint is very important for this team and will be for them in the latter stages of the season.
The Wildcats non-conference schedule isn’t as challenging as seen in years past but there are games that will test them early on. Back-to-back games at the beginning of December, first at Clemson and then home against the Florida Gators could be considered important wins for the tournament resume.
The Wildcats begin the 2012-13 season on Sunday against Charleston Southern from McKale Center in Tucson.