Arizona Basketball

Only positive developments can come out of Trier’s decision to return to Arizona Wildcats



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Allonzo Trier is doing something North Carolina forwards Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson did after last year, and they had the opportunity to play in the NCAA championship game because of it.

Trier, a five-star recruit ranked as the No. 20 prospect by Scout coming out of Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep last year, announced yesterday he is staying at Arizona at least one more season. He is resisting the temptation of being a one-year-and-done NBA talent, similar to Seton Hall shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead after his freshman season last year at this time.

Whitehead built his portfolio this season to include an All-Big East selection and Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player, leading the Pirates to the title after upsetting eventual national champion Villanova in that tournament.

Jackson, Pinson and Whitehead are three of only six top 20 prospects from the Class of 2014 to stay for their sophomore seasons in the recently concluded season. Jackson was ranked No. 10, Whitehead No. 14 and Pinson No. 19. The others who stayed include Florida wing forward Devin Robinson (No. 16), UCLA center Thomas Welsh (No. 17) and Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis (No. 20 like Trier was last year).

Ulis was selected the SEC player of the year and defensive player of the year.

The two players who stayed and did not get many accolades this season — Robinson and Welsh — have become more mature with their games and outlook on their future because of their decisions.

Robinson, an SEC All-Frehman team selection in 2014-15, struggled for most of this season under new Florida coach Mike White. He averaged nine points and 5.6 rebounds in only 23.1 minutes a game. Robinson has declared for the NBA draft but has not hired an agent. He plans to take advantage of the NCAA’s new relaxed rule allowing prospects to work out for an NBA team and attend the draft combine before making a decision as long as an agent is not hired.

Welsh continued to prosper this season averaging 11.2 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds a game. A second-team Pac-12 All-Academic team selection, he led the Bruins in double-doubles with 10. Welsh plans on returning to the Bruins for his junior season whereas former fellow Class of 2014 standout Kevon Looney (Scout’s No. 15 prospect two years ago) is riding Golden State’s bench, having played most of the season in the D-League after having surgery on his hip.


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At least Looney is getting paid as he gets acclimated to the NBA in the Warriors’ proven winning system under Steve Kerr.

Other one-and-done players of the Class of 2014 could have used more seasoning in college.

Undrafted player Cliff Alexander (No. 6 in 2014), a one-time Arizona recruiting target who signed with Kansas but did not play an entire season because of eligibility reasons, has logged minimal minutes in only eight games with Portland this season.

Syracuse one-and-doner Chris McCullough, a late first-round selection last year, has played in only 19 games with struggling Brooklyn.


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Most important for a prospect like Trier is to look at his draft status. If a player is not selected in the first round, the odds are against him to succeed. In last year’s draft, for example, all but one player (Nikola Mulitinov) selected in the first round has played in the NBA this season. Mulitinov signed a three-year contract with a pro team in Greece after the Spurs drafted him as the 26th pick overall.

Of the 30 players drafted in the second round last year, 17 players have not played a minute in the NBA this season. That includes 10 American-born players who played collegiately in the United States. The most notable are Andrew Harrison and Dakari Johnson of Kentucky and J.P. Tokoto of North Carolina.

Harrison left after his sophomore season. He has played in the D-League all year at Iowa. Johnson also left after his sophomore season under John Calipari. He has also played in the D-League all season in Oklahoma City. Tokoto left the Tar Heels after his junior season last year. He has also toiled with Oklahoma City’s D-League affiliate all season.

What would the prospects of Harrison, Johnson and Tokoto be today if they decided to stay one more year in college like Trier has done?

It’s a debate that is difficult to answer because of how teams evolve year to year, especially in this day and age when a coach must prepare to reload — not rebuild. Reload. If Harrison stayed, that would have taken away from Ulis’ development as the SEC player of the year. If Tokoto stayed, how would that have impacted Marcus Paige’s season?

Similar questions are now being posed about Trier. With him on the 2016-17 roster, how does that affect Sean Miller’s rotation? For Miller, it’s a good “problem” to have.

As a player who will turn 21 by the end of next season, Trier has it in him to be the leader Arizona sorely missed last season. A year older and wiser and gaining more strength to improve defensively, only good things can come from Trier staying in the program. He can also evolve into a better ball-handler before he likely takes the big step to the NBA after next season.

Trier was more about his team than himself, especially late in this season, including the overtime loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament.

The immediate question Arizona fans had after Trier’s announcement yesterday was how his decision impacts five-star recruits Terrance Ferguson and/or Josh Jackson coming to Arizona. The Wildcats are already loaded at the shooting guard/wing position with Trier, redshirt freshman Ray Smith and five-star recruits Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins already committed. Senior-to-be Kadeem Allen, an NBA prospect in his own right, will also play off the ball when Parker Jackson-Cartwright or Simmons is playing the point.

Ferguson and/or Jackson — both of whom played with Trier under Miller last year for Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Championships — can help make Arizona a more dangerous team in terms of athleticism at all five positions. Miller can certainly go the distance playing “small ball” while also injecting Dusan Ristic, Chance Comanche and five-star forward Lauri Markkanen in the lineup if he needs to go big.

The NCAA tournament championship teams — Villanova and North Carolina — relied primarily on their wings and perimeter players to get that far. Villanova has only one player taller than 6’8.5″ on its roster — 6’11” forward Daniel Ochefu.

Kennedy Meeks was North Carolina’s most reliable big man at 6’10”. Brice Johnson is also listed at 6’10” but he was more of a perimeter threat who could dominate inside when given the opportunity.

Imagine an Arizona rotation of Allen, Trier, Smith, Jackson and Comanche interchangeable with Jackson-Cartwright, Simmons, Alkins, Ferguson and Markkanen. Ristic could mature his game more into a better defensive player, a serious liability right now in his game, while rotating with Comanche and Markkanen.

As Team USA coach, Miller had to sooth over egos and create chemistry while making standouts like Trier come off the bench while winning the gold last year at the world championships in Greece.

Trier, Jackson and Ferguson know first-hand how valuable Miller is in that regard.

For those who wondered “What now?” with Trier returning with Ferguson and Jackson still out there, should really think more of what now in terms of Arizona’s prospects with him returning. That is nothing but positive. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.


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