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Sean Miller’s press conference yesterday gave us a first read on what he believes might be Arizona’s lineup with four starters gone and freshman wing player Ray Smith out for the season with a knee injury.
Much of his conversation with the media revolved around who is playing the better defense in practice, a necessity for minutes in Miller’s sytem.
Elliott Pitts and Kadeem Allen drew most of Miller’s praise from a defensive standpoint. Pitts could potentially start on the wing with Gabe York at the shooting guard with Parker Jackson-Cartwright or Allen at the point.
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“Elliott is the furthest along defensively,” Miller said. “He is one of our team’s best overall defensive players. Kadeem Allen and him are very dependable when it comes to being in the right place and taking on the challenge of playing against some of these elite guards we’re going to face.”
Miller commented on how Allen, a combo guard through high school and junior college, will play the point guard in a competition with Parker Jackson-Cartwright for minutes. Who starts at this position will be secondary to who establishes the most minutes and impact on Arizona’s defense and offensive execution.
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PF Ryan Anderson has won gold jersey as Arizona's best practice player for 6 straight weeks. Miller: 'He's been unchallenged.'
“Parker Jackson-Cartwright is more of a true point guard,” Miller said. “He plays only one position. There are some days I think Parker does an excellent job, but Kadeem’s size and length is a great matchup for any guard and I really believe it is bringing out the best in Parker.
“Judging our point guard position now, what I hope is that every game and every week you see incremental improvement. You would see as they get game experience and keep adding to practices, they learn their trade better and become more dependable across the board.”
If Miller bases his minutes distributed on defense — which he generally does — Allen will play extensively. Despite his size at 6’3″ and 200, Allen will be called upon to defend both guard positions and potentially the wing on the perimeter.
“He has great ability as a defensive player and based on the players that have left us recently, we’re looking for him to inherit that role to be able to contribute and guard the other team’s best perimeter player and he has shown that through the first couple of months here,” Miller said.
Miller was asked about the potential of a three-guard lineup with Smith out, but he was hesitant to say it will be a reality because of defensive concerns.
“We could play Allonzo Trier and Gabe York together with a point guard,” Miller said. “That gives us maybe some strength offensively, firepower, and shooting.
“We’re certainly going to be smaller on defense. A lot of that depends on how those three guys work together on defense. You can really sacrifice a lot when you start playing that small.”
Miller said Mark Tollefsen is more of a traditional wing player at 6’8″ but has practiced mostly at the power forward position because of a sprained ankle injury for Kaleb Tarczewski.
“He hasn’t played a lot in practice there (power forward) because we have been down without Kaleb and Ray, but I think that has also been good for him,” Miller said. “Giving him a blend of inside and outside will develop him the fastest way that we can.”