Arizona Wildcats guard Allonzo Trier returns today against UCLA after missing the first 19 games due to an NCAA suspension while a performance enhancing drug cleared his system.
Trier tested positive in September, which drew an automatic one-year suspension. But Arizona won on appeal, clearly believing that Trier took the PED through no fault of his own, although he couldn’t play until it was out of his system.
Trier has been tested weekly. That was the case this week, too, the results coming back to Arizona on Friday afternoon. Coach Sean Miller learned the news while the team was on the bus headed to practice, and he was able to tell the team right there.
“It was almost like surreal,” Miller said in his pregame interview on Sportsradio 1290. “You wondered if it would ever come, but when it did come, it was awesome to see the reaction of our team and also to see the reaction from him.”
Trier averaged 14.8 points as a freshman and he gives the Wildcats a go-to scorer and enviable depth. But Miller issued an initial caution.
“Let me say this: It’s a tough task for him to come back for today’s game. When you have missed 19 games, even if you’ve practiced, playing at UCLA, you’re not going to be at your best,” Miller said.
“Our team won’t be at our best, even though we have one more quality player. But the fact that he’s back I think means the world to our future, and, most importantly, I’m happy for him. It’s the right thing.”
Trier has practiced with the team every day, so the transition back into live game action shouldn’t be a long one. Miller said he didn’t know how Trier would be used today.
“I really don’t. I have been preparing in some ways for this because he’s always been practicing,” Miller said. “We’ve never put him on the scout team. We’ve always treated him as if he’s the next day away. And that has helped us. It’s not like we have to reinvent ourselves.
“But from this day on, it will be a bigger and bigger role for sure, because he is truly one of our team’s best players.”
Last week, Miller called the Trier situation “kind of a once-in-a-lifetime” deal. Through it all, Trier has been visibly supportive of his team on the bench, and Miller said his work ethic in practice has been exemplary.
“Allonzo worked as hard as any kid that I’ve ever seen this summer,” Miller said.
“He returned to school to be a better player, to win and do all the things from a pure perspective that you want in young people. And it was taken away from him, and it was taken away from him from something he really didn’t have a lot to do with — as a matter of fact, almost nothing to do with.
“But we’ve been waiting every week, for months. And he’s been waiting every week. We’d get the call and the call is bad news, and somebody had to deliver the bad news both to him and his mom and, simultaneous, to our team. …
“It was like bad news for two months.”
Then came good news. Now, Trier plays.
And there it is. After missing 19 games for PEDs, Allonzo Trier has officially returned to Arizona for its matchup against No. 3 UCLA. pic.twitter.com/RQBSWPMQsV