Inside Look into Wildcats’ Practice
PGU’s sources have given us a rare inside glimpse into the Wildcats’ first few practices of the season. Here is a brief rundown of what we’ve learned from watching the early season practice sessions, including notes on player development, the newcomers, and even an altercation that involved Kyryl Natyazhko. You will not find this kind of insider information anywhere else, and as always PGU is bringing it to you absolutely free of charge.
Last year Arizona’s players came into the season fighting an uphill battle, as conditioning was clearly a problem with most of the team. That is not the case this year, however, as a number of players have made visible transformations to their bodies.
Solomon Hill looks slimmer but stronger, and the way he has practiced so far confirms that he is in far better shape now than he was a year ago. Hill’s improved physique will definitely improve his mobility, and should help him expand his perimeter game. If Hill can make defenders respect his jump shot, he could be in for a big year.
Perhaps no player has undergone as drastic of a physical change as MoMo Jones. Those of you who haven’t seen Jones since the end of last season will be shocked to see the difference a summer of training has made. Jones has shed a lot of weight, which will make him a much quicker and more elusive guard. At 6% body fat, though, he still has the muscle to hang with bigger opponents and absorb contact on the way to the rim. Jones’ physical improvements will certainly make him a more dynamic player this season.
Competition Breeds Excellence
Arizona did not have a player on the roster last year that could push Jamelle Horne in practice the way Jesse Perry can. Perry is a high energy player who can run the court, mix it up in the paint, and also bring his defender out to the perimeter. He will be a great addition for his on court contributions, but Perry’s biggest value right now is that he is going to make Horne a much better player.
Much has been said of the changes Horne had to make if he was going to be a contributor in his senior year, and that seems to be manifesting itself in the way he has practiced so far. Horne is showing a willingness to crash the offensive boards and be more of a factor in the paint, though at times he seems to revert to the bad habits he formed last year.
Though he still projects as the starting point guard, Jones has also benefited from the presence of another point guard on the roster. Jones has acted the part of the floor general so far, and has been focused on setting up his teammates during practice. If anything, Jones’ biggest criticism is that he isn’t looking for his shot enough.
Arizona’s practices have been so competitive thus far that tensions between Kyryl Natyazhko and another player almost came to blows. In fact, Sean Miller decided to schedule a 6:30 am practice today to let the players know that he wouldn’t tolerate it and the boundaries of healthy competition.
Arizona’s 2010 class consists of just two freshmen (and juco transfer Jesse Perry), but fans are nonetheless excited to see what they can bring to the table.
Many thought point guard Jordin Mayes would have difficulty finding the court this year, but he has done a good job of proving his worth in practice so far. He has a good outside stroke, can shoot off the dribble, and has exceptionally long arms. More importantly, he doesn’t force the issue, plays within himself and does what’s expected of him.
Fellow freshman Daniel Bejarano has had a little more difficulty adjusting to the college game, as he has looked lost on offense at times and is still figuring out what he needs to do on defense. Known for his shooting ability, Bejarano has yet to refine his shot selection enough to allow him to be effective in limited minutes.
Practice Makes Perfect
It’s been widely reported that Brendon Lavender has consistently been the best shooter in practices dating back to the beginning of last year. Despite how good he looked behind closed doors, he has yet to reach the potential he flashes glimpses of, especially during games. In the first few practices this year, Lavender continues to shoot well and show why some think he could have a breakout year. The question remains, though, whether he can replicate his practice play on game day.
Like Lavender, Kyryl Natyazhko was great in practices last year but couldn’t find the same success during real game play. Natyazhko comes into this year playing well in practice once again, which many believe is a result of playing in the FIBA U-20 championships. Gaining confidence and adjusting to the speed of the college game have always been his biggest obstacles, so it still remains to be seen if Natyazhko can take his game to another level.
– Derrick Williams looks bigger, stronger, and more focused than he was last year. It is clear that he is ready for a big year.
– Kevin Parrom was held out of practice due to a concussion.
– If the season started today, the starting five would likely be MoMo Jones, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jamelle Horne, and Derrick Williams.
– Jones and Mayes look like they will account for all the minutes at point guard, with Fogg possibly helping out in a pinch.