Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: 1972 freshmen trio backs up Miller’s claim today’s freshmen no better than past

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Sean Miller caught the media’s attention yesterday going on what some labeled a “rant” about the evolution of basketball players entering their freshman season as opposed to past years.

In light of Arizona’s top three scorers being freshmen, our Anthony Gimino asked Miller if a freshman’s basketball IQ is higher now compared to years past and if the talent level has improved. Miller told Gimino, “No,” on both questions.

“I think freshmen come to college basketball with more unrealistic expectations than ever before,” Miller said, addressing the phenomenon of the one-and-dones in college hoops. “That statement is the most obvious one that a college basketball coach can make.”

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North Carolina coach Roy Williams never had a player score 47 points against him in his 29 years of coaching. That happened Saturday when Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk scored that amount. Fellow freshman, point guard De’Aaron Fox, a one-time Arizona recruiting target, added 24 points and 10 assists for Kentucky.

Williams offered a different take than Miller on today’s freshmen after that game, a thriller won by Kentucky 103-100 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. He was asked how much freshmen have grown over the years to play so well on such a big stage.

“The freshmen are no longer freshmen,” Williams said. “I can remember 100 years ago I recruited a kid and said once every four years we’ll take you to Hawaii, and now high school teams go to Hawaii. I mean, geez, they’ve got more exposure and play against better competition.

“I recruited one kid who played 61 games in the summer. We used to never see that. So freshmen are freshmen because of their age and how many classes they’ve gone to with their basketball years. It’s much higher than it used to be in the old days.”

Williams added that freshmen are “more worldly and more competitive.”

“They’ve had more opportunities,” he said. “They’ve had USA Basketball competitions and played in great competitions (in various summer AAU leagues and events).”

Arizona’s leading scorers are freshmen but their overall production ranks at varying degrees on the team.

Lauri Markkanen leads with 16.3 points a game and Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons are next each averaging 12.3 points. Markkanen is the leader in our productivity rating at .817, but Alkins is third at .575 behind junior center Dusan Ristic (.700) and Simmons is sixth at .463.

In other words, the freshmen are scoring in most cases but their overall production, especially with Alkins and Simmons, needs improvement. That will come in a matter of time because of their youth.

In a Twitter discussion during the Texas A&M game last weekend with Gimino, he wrote: “No way to verify, so I’ll just claim it’s true: Markkanen/Alkins/Simmons take fewer bad shots than any freshman class in Arizona history.”

I responded with the names of three freshmen who comprised Fred Snowden’s first class — point guard Eric Money, shooting guard Coniel Norman and power forward Al Fleming, as good as any trio recruited in one class in the program’s history. All three played in the NBA.

They combined to shoot 569 of 1,133 from the field, a phenomenal 50.2 percent, as freshmen. That was before the 3-point line, but those who observed that group can attest that Norman took many jumpers from where the 3-point line is today.

Markkanen, Alkins and Simmons are shooting 46 percent (162 of 352).

Arizona’s 1972-73 team included one of the best freshmen trios in Arizona history — Coniel Norman (22), Eric Money (14) and Al Fleming (54)

Arizona’s top three scorers in 1972-73 were freshmen and they shot for a high percentage (Arizona stat sheet)

So in defense of Miller’s assessment, perhaps today’s freshmen are no better than those in yesteryear in terms of talent and ability. Money, Norman and Fleming functioned without traveling nationwide in AAU tournaments and playing on ESPN in balleyhooed high school basketball games.

Norman was a sharpshooter from long range. Money had an admirable basketball IQ, going down as one of the best playmakers in Arizona history. Fleming is the career leader in rebounds for Arizona with 1,190.

There is no question those three players can hold their own — as freshmen — in today’s game 44 years later.

WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY RATING?:
PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

SEASON PRODUCTIVITY RATING
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PRODUCTIVITY REPORT
ARIZONA PAC-10/12
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR:
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PREVIOUS GAME
ARIZONA 67, TEXAS A&M 63
PRODUCTIVITY RATING

* — STARTERS
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ARIZONA SCHEDULE/PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS
*-Honolulu
**-Las Vegas
***-Los Angeles
****-Houston
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com 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 CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, 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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