Arizona Wildcats guard Allonzo Trier told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on Thursday that he will return for his junior season.
While there is other uncertainty around the makeup of the 2017-18 UA roster, this decision was the centerpiece to next season’s expectations.
Trier averaged a team-high 17.2 points last season, missing the first half of the season because of an NCAA suspension due to a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug. Trier missed 19 games, then played in 18.
He also averaged 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists, shooting 46 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from 3-point range and 81.0 percent from the free throw line.
This marks the first time that coach Sean Miller will return his leading scorer since his first season, when Derrick Williams returned for his sophomore year after averaging 15.7 points in 2009-10.
Miller can now envision a core of Trier and incoming freshman five-star post player DeAndre Ayton. How the pieces fall into place around that is still being determined.
Trier’s return seems to eliminate the recruitment of five-star wing Brian Bowen, who was looking to step into a big role if Trier left. Arizona is still pursuing other freshman and transfer candidates, including Pitt grad transfer Cameron Johnson, who would be immediately eligible with two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Arizona has lost senior Kadeem Allen to graduation, and freshman Lauri Markkanen and Kobi Simmons to the NBA Draft. Sophomore post Chance Comanche and Rawle Alkins have declared for the draft but have not hired agents, allowing them to return to school. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is May 24.
So, let’s take a look at a potential lineup:
PG — Parker Jackson-Cartwright
SG — Allonzo Trier
SF — Rawle Alkins
PF — DeAndre Ayton
C — Dusan Ristic
That’s set-your-expectations-high good.
If Alkins leaves, then maybe Arizona lands the 6-8 Johnson, a good 3-point shooter, at forward. UNC-Asheville transfer Dylan Smith, eligible after sitting out last season, should be in the rotation on the perimeter. Incoming freshman Brandon Randolph, a 6-6 shooting guard, is another possibility.
Comanche essentially would, again, provide a tag-team partner to Ristic. If Comanche leave, Arizona has senior Keanu Pinder to rotate into the post positions, and incoming freshman Ira Lee seems to be another frontcourt player who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work.
Even if Comanche and Alkins come back, Arizona has only 11 scholarship players, two under the limit. There is still plenty of maneuvering to do, as the Wildcats have also been linked to Duke transfer big man Chase Jeter and high-scoring Rice transfer Marcus Evans. Both would have to sit out next season.
Trier wasn’t in many reliable mock drafts for this season, but draftexpress.com rates him an early second-rounder (No. 35 overall) for 2018. With a full season, Trier — who will be 22 by the 2018 draft — could easily slide into the first round.