Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats basketball: Measuring the experience factor



Newcomers Kadeem Allen, Ryan Anderson and  Mark Tollefsen (left to right) have combined for 257 games played in their post-high school careers

Newcomers to Arizona’s active lineup Kadeem Allen, Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen (left to right) have combined for 257 games played and 226 starts in their post-high school careers

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Includes scholarship players with experience based on the start of the particular season. Tables ranked by games started. Researched by

Experience with Arizona
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Overall experience including JC/4-year schools
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DI experience including transfers from 4-year schools
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How will this equation play out in the end for Arizona?:

Sean Miller’s 2015-16 team will be his second-lowest in games started with Arizona. The only team with less returning starts was his first in 2009-10.

Conversely, none of his six previous teams come close to the overall number of collegiate starts of next season’s team.

That’s because Arizona welcomes two experienced Division I transfers — senior forwards Ryan Anderson (Boston College) and Mark Tollefsen (San Francisco) — and a junior-college player (guard Kadeem Allen, who redshirted last season).

Factoring the games played and started for Anderson, Tollefsen and Allen at their previous collegiate stops, Arizona will have a roster with 588 games played and 359 starts. Those two figures are the most for a Miller team in his Arizona tenure.

His first team that went 16-15 had the fewest numbers in those categories — 235 games played and 111 starts — entering that season.

With senior center Kaleb Tarczewski back next season, the returning roster includes 133 starts at Arizona. If Tarczewski chose to leave, the Wildcats would have only 26 (25 of them by senior guard Gabe York).

Thanks to Tarczewski, the Wildcats avoided a perilous situation with a lack of experience, especially at the post, with sophomore-to-be Dusan Ristic still developing.

Does experience always matter?

Not always. Much depends on the chemistry and matchup advantages of a team each season.


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Case in point: The 2011-12 team that went 23-12 and lost in the first round of the NIT at home to Belmont was one of Miller’s most experienced teams. Entering that season, returners had 528 games played and 196 starts in their Wildcat careers, the most in each category for a Miller-coached team at Arizona.

Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry and Brendon Lavender were seniors and Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Kyryl Natyazhko were juniors.

Perry and Hill started out of position as 6’7″ players at the center and power forward positions, respectively.

The team was also Miller’s most dysfunctional because of wayward freshmen Josiah Turner and Sidiki Johnson, both of whom did not finish the season because of disciplinary reasons.


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The fact that Arizona won 23 games that season, when it should have won at least five less, can be attributed to the experience of Fogg, Perry and Hill.

Since that lowest point of his career at Arizona — especially after an Elite Eight appearance a year previously — Miller has corrected the flaws. He has landed one-and-done five-star players who are more about the team than themselves, attracted quality transfers from four-year programs and stockpiled five- and four-star recruits who fill particular needs.

The level of talent and Miller’s clout have improved a great deal since that 2011-12 season. The most important element for that happening: Players have bought in to his system. It’s a constant battle annually to make sure chemistry evolves with high-level recruits and transfers.

Three of Miller’s last four teams, including next season’s projected lineup, are his most experienced with overall collegiate games started. The team that just finished 34-4 entered the season with a high number of 293 starts, which is 67 less than what’s ahead for Miller.

How will that experience work with the important elements of chemistry and role definition?

The fact that one-and-done stars Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson have flourished in a controlled scheme by Miller indicates to incoming recruits that personal sacrifices must be made. The days of averaging 20-plus points are over but the honors and lottery-pick dreams can stay alive.

Miller has that leverage with high-profile incoming freshmen Allonzo Trier and Justin Simon, both of whom played for national programs Findlay Prep and Brewster Academy, respectively.

As for the roles, Miller has a challenge (a good one) with Arizona’s guard rotation one of his deepest. Miller can alleviate concerns for playing time by often going small with a three-guard lineup.

Freshman Ray Smith is the lone prototypical small forward. His role is defined. With Smith coming off a knee injury that kept him off the court last season, Tollefsen or Anderson could play on the wing to allow Miller to work Smith in slowly. Miller can also go big with Tollefsen and Anderson, when necessary, on the wing. Plenty of minutes exist between the power forward and small forward positions with those three players.

At the post, Arizona is fine with Tarczewski, Ristic and freshman standout Chance Comanche. The competition in practice will be at its best in the Miller years at that position.

How will the overall collegiate experience equation play out for Arizona?

Weighing all of the factors, the Wildcats should use that to their advantage similar to 2013-14 and 2014-15 rather than what happened in 2011-12. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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