Arizona Basketball

Who shined in Red-Blue? Ristic, Allen, Markkanen and Smith

Five observations from Arizona’s Annual Red-Blue while wondering was that a real dunk contest or not? I’ve never seen so many misses. Yet, there are so many reasons for optimism.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting journey,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

1. I really like Dusan Ristic and the player he’s turning into. Sure, he still needs work on the defensive end and it’ll show from time to time but he’s so smooth around the basket offensively that there might be times you’ll say who cares if he can’t defend. He’s got that nice hook shot.

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“It felt nice playing again,” said Ristic, who looks like a different player after losing weight and gaining muscle. “(but) it’s too early to say (much) because it’s a scrimmage game. We will go game by game.”

Sean Miller instead heaped the praise. “I don’t know if there are too many 7-footers who have the touch and the know-how to score like he does. As you can tell he’s running better and has worked hard over the summer.”

2. Kadeem Allen is going to have an impact for Arizona this season. I have no doubt about it. About two weeks ago he said he needed to be more aggressive offensively this season, a year removed from Sean Miller telling him he needed that to happen. Well, it looks like Allen is listening. He’ll be off the ball more and take some jumpers when he’s open.

“Coach (Miller) is telling me to take all the open shots I get, good looks and be aggressive,” Allen said.

Miller said he feels Allen may have more talent as a perimeter player than anyone else on the team. Then Miller reminded everyone Allen averaged 28 points in junior college a couple of years ago. “He’s paid his dues and we need him to be a really good player for us,” Miller said.

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3. Lauri Markkanen is going to be special to watch. As I look back on the program and try to remember who he reminded me of I couldn’t think of anyone. Then Miller mentioned Derrick Williams. OK, let’s go with that for a bit. But Markkanen is different. He’s mostly outside. And he’s likely the player Grant Jerrett could have been had he decided to stay at Arizona for more than a cup of coffee.

“That pick and pop is really dangerous,” UA guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. “It’s really special.”

Cartwright went as far as saying if he’s open “it’s pretty much going in every time.”

Miller added that his 14 points and seven rebounds are expected. I’ve never heard a coach say that.

“As our offense smooths out there are so many things Lauri can do, not only for himself but to make our team better,” Miller said. “We’re excited to have him.”

4. Imagine if this was Ray Smith’s second year playing. He looked like he hadn’t really missed a beat after sitting out last year with a serious knee injury. He looked strong and like he can hit a jumper with consistency. My guess is – depending on Allonzo Trier’s status – Smith will be the go-to-guy for awhile. He’s a nice option to have.

“He’s made tremendous gains and we’re excited to continue to watch him,” Miller said. “Hopefully he stays injury free.”

5. Rawle Alkins will have some sort of impact this season. He did a lot in the game and seemingly was everywhere. He can do a lot for Arizona: score, defend and fill-in wherever the team needs him. That’s a great situation for a team that can use a swiss-army knife.

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“He’s a great kid and an amazing personality,” said Miller, who was a prop for Alkins during the dunk contest. Miller held the ball for Alkins on what eventually won him the dunk contest. “He has great charisma.

It was Miller’s first assist in about 25 years. Regarding Alkins again, “I thought he played well. He’s really strong driving to the basket and is under control … We have a lot to work with for him to become better.”

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