Vampires, ghouls, goblins, none of those things are scary. What’s scary is the talent the Arizona Wildcats have assembled for the 2014-15 basketball season. Here’s a few frightening thoughts that will keep opposing Pac-12 coaches up at night.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s Suffocating Defense
Hollis-Jefferson may be the most versatile defensive player in the country, capable of guarding point guards, power forwards, and anyone in between. Gifted with a 7-1 wingspan, the 6-7 forward has length and quickness for days.
It’s RHJ’s activity level that makes him such a defensive terror, though. The sophomore has a relentless motor that results in deflections, steals, blocked shots, and general frustration for the opponent.
Hollis-Jefferson will likely be tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player every night, filling in the role that Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon shared last season.
The Return of Brandon Ashley
As Arizona fans let out a collective sigh of despair when the news about Ashley’s injury broke, the 11 other Pac-12 coaches secretly let out a sigh of relief. There was no answer for Arizona when Ashley was on the court last year, as evidenced by their 21-0 record.
Arizona adjusted admirably late in the season, but it was clear that they were never the same.
Now that the Wildcat’s star junior is back on the court, opposing defenses will have to account for one of the most dynamic offensive players in the nation. Ashley’s ability to hit long range shots and score efficiently down low make him a tough cover that will haunt the Pac-12.
Arizona fielded one of the tallest starting lineups in college basketball last season, and it could get even taller this year. If Arizona were to replace Johnson and Gordon with Hollis-Jefferson and freshman Stanley Johnson, the Wildcats would have four players 6-7 or taller running the floor.
For a distributor like TJ McConnell, that height presents opportunities for mismatches and thus more play-making opportunities. Having a pair of 6-7 wings filling the lanes and two skilled post players to feed is a scary thought indeed.
Night of the Living Depth
The Wildcats added a wealth of talent through the freshman class as well as transfers Kadeem Allen and Ryan Anderson. While Anderson will not suit up for games this year, he’ll be an integral part of practices. His presence will only help Arizona’s other big men get better.
While at times last year Arizona relied heavily on their starting unit, this season Sean Miller will have more flexibility with his bench. Freshmen Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Craig Victor could both earn minutes off the bench, especially as the year goes on and fatigue becomes more of a factor. And Dusan Ristic, a seven footer, adds another talented big man that can score and run the court.
Arizona lost two NBA Draft picks, but might have added more than they lost. That should strike fear into the hearts of Arizona’s opponents.
Stanley Johnson is the monster under the bed that makes Pac-12 coaches pull the sheets over their head. At 245 pounds, the forward-guard hybrid makes most grown men look like boys. If he weren’t smiling all the time, he would be truly terrifying.
It’s unheard of for a freshman to enter college as physically developed as Johnson. Arizona fans might have to think back to Michael Wright to remember a young player as physically jacked as the Stanimal. Wright’s strength immediately translated to the college level, which is a good omen for Johnson’s chances of having a successful freshman year.