There’s been a lot of buzz around town about Arizona’s talented new freshmen, and rightfully so. But there’s another newcomer in Tucson who gives the Wildcats a rare boost of both talent and experience. Senior point guard Mark Lyons joins Sean Miller’s squad this year, and if the team’s first exhibition was any indication, the veteran floor general will be at the heart of the Wildcats’ attack.
For Arizona fans, it’s almost like they just cashed in a lottery ticket. Not only did the program land a major talent from another perennial hoops power, Lyons brings three Sweet 16’s worth of experience to a team that desperately needed another point guard. And the icing on the cake? Because of his graduate status, Lyons was given immediate eligibility. That doesn’t happen often, and Arizona fans should be thanking their lucky stars that their team is reaping the benefits.
For other Pac-12 fans and the rest of the country, it’s one of those “rich get richer” moments that belie the real parity of the game. It’s gotta be frustrating for the up and coming Pac-12 teams like Colorado, Stanford, and Oregon to see Arizona juice their roster so dramatically in just one offseason (not to mention UCLA’s recent recruiting boon).
What does Lyons bring to the court? Steady ball handling, play-making ability, and an aggressive scoring mentality are a few characteristics that come to mind. But perhaps most important of all, Lyons brings leadership from the point guard position that Arizona hasn’t had since Nic Wise was running the show. On a team full of young talent, that’s an invaluable asset.
The bottom line is that Arizona did indeed hit the jackpot with Lyons, and the rich did indeed get richer, much to the chagrin of the teams fighting for traction in the conference standings. But their misfortune is Arizona’s ground gained on the quest for a National Championship, a mission that Lyons is now leading.
But Lyons isn’t approaching it that way. To be a leader, he’s going to play the game the same way he always has.
“I told the team when I got here that I’m just a basketball player,” Lyons said after Arizona’s exhibition win over Humboldt St. “I’m going to make the right plays on the court. If someone is open, I’m going to give them the ball and if I have an opportunity, I’m going to go ahead and take it.”