Arizona Athletics

Hola Spain! The Cats are looking for camaraderie, chemistry

Bien venidos!

Sean Miller & Co., will hear plenty of that – among other Spanish words – when they touchdown in Barcelona for what will be a 10-day, three-game trip to play a little basketball and do some team building.

The games are, well, secondary, although who wants to lose an exhibition game? Right?

Arizona, loaded as it is and projected to be a top three team this upcoming season, shouldn’t have a problem with the competition overseas, but what could be the most important part of the trip is the team-building chemistry. The competition and the result aren’t “the end game,” coach Sean Miller said.

Sean Miller speaks to the media during a press conference set up to discuss the upcoming trip to Spain for the Arizona Wildcats (Steve Rivera/

There will be 16 to 17 team members, including Duke transfer Chase Jeter, all the incoming freshmen (Deandre Ayton, Ira Lee, Brandon Randolph, Alex Barcello, Emmanuel Akot and even Ray Smith (who won’t be playing).

The trip is about camaraderie and the extra practices the team has had leading up to the trip.

“Team sports, that’s it — chemistry and culture, the older players developing leadership skills and the younger players being willing teammates listening to those who have done it before,” Miller said.

The trip helps in as much as there are so many new faces – given the incoming freshman class and transfers.

“We will be clearly ahead of the game for no other reason that our team is forced to be around each other for an extended period of time where none of us would even be in Tucson (right now),” Miller said.

Instead, the team will have completed 10 practices before it leaves on Thursday.

Miller said the trip won’t all be about “all practice and no fun … that will defeat the purpose,” he said.

So, there will be sight-seeing trips in between the three games. The players brought to the media on Tuesday afternoon said they knew a little Spanish, maybe enough to order off the menu. Dusan Ristic said he’d been in Spain a couple of times and knew a few words.

Dusan Ristic talks to the Tucson media today concerning the upcoming trip to Spain (Steve Rivera/

Que bien!

Apparently it will be a learning curve for all involved, especially for the incoming freshman class.

“This year’s (class) is one of the best classes that we’ve had,” Miller said. “They’ve done a good job in school and an excellent job of trying to be a part of Arizona and be a part of our basketball program. It’s refreshing to have a freshman class come in and be willing to learn.”

Miller went on to say each has a good shot of being able to contribute immediately, the headliner being Ayton.

“I’ve never seen anyone like him,” Miller said. “I don’t think I will again. He’s just so physically imposing (7-foot-plus and 260 pounds). He’s as strong and as gifted running for somebody that size. And he loves the game; loves to compete.”

Then Miller waxed poetic on the other freshmen saying “they are equally exciting in their own way.”

Barcello “can really shoot it.”

Randolph can really shoot and has fit right in.

Akot has “versatility that really stands out.”

And Lee is “very hard-working and very athletic. He’s a great competitor.”

What they all do is add “great depth” to an already stacked team.

First up, juegos (games) in Spain … que bueno.

UA Games in Spain
Combinado Valenciano, Aug. 13 – 7 p.m.
Mataro All-Stars, Aug. 16 – 7:10 p.m.
Mataro Parc Boet, Aug. 18 No time given

Games can be seen on for a fee. Note: Spain is nine hours ahead of Pacific Time.

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