As we approach the college basketball season, we’re going to hear a lot about how this is a new Arizona team. With 7 players who didn’t see the court last year, this will indeed be a fresh Wildcat squad.
But two of those players, Kadeem Allen and Ryan Anderson, were with the team last year. Sitting out due to redshirt and transfer rules, Allen and Anderson’s experience in the program will give Arizona a boost while expediting the formation of a team identity.
Allen, a former junior college player of the year, will add toughness and scoring to Arizona’s back court. He’s a capable ball handler, but his slashing ability will give the Wildcats an attacking guard who can get to the hoop.
The 6-3 junior also has a solid physical frame at 200 pounds. Allen’s strength will help him get to the free throw line when defenses try to stop him from scoring at the basket.
Anderson will also add strength, as he figures to start at the power forward position. A solid fundamental rebounder, Anderson’s mobile 6-9, 230 pound body will challenge Pac-12 opponents in the paint.
Like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson last year, Anderson also has a magnetic personality that will bring the locker room together. As the team tries to forge an identity in the early season, Anderson’s likable personality will help develop chemistry.
More than anything, though, Allen and Anderson’s experience will be vital to Arizona reaching their potential sooner rather than later. Both players had the benefit of participating in practices for an entire season, much like TJ McConnell did two seasons ago. And like McConnell, they can parlay that experience into leadership for the younger players.
Both Allen and Anderson will know what is expected of them from day one, and will be able to serve as examples to the inexperienced players. That will not only provide continuity between this year and last, but it will also speed up the development of the freshmen.
So while Arizona does have a lot of fresh faces on the roster, they will also be unleashing two players who have been preparing an entire season for this moment. And when the season finally tips off, that preparation will pay big dividends for the entire team.