When is a freshman no longer a freshman when it comes to being a, um, a freshman on the University of Arizona men’s basketball team?
Well, today, tomorrow, Saturday – and beyond.
“We’re 70 practices in, 18 games,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said on Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s game vs. Arizona State. “People look at mid-January as the mid-way point in terms of games but add practices and we’re over halfway.”
Through in the team has seen tough teams and has played in tough environments the talk of freshman being freshman should be over. And although they might night be cagey veterans, they clearly aren’t freshmen.
“Now is (when) you settle in,” Miller said.
But does it help that Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion and Josh Green aren’t your ordinary freshmen? All have come on the scene as high-profile recruits who have done very well to this point.
“In all fairness, we need all three to play well all the time,” Miller said. “They carry a big burden, a big weight and have a lot of responsibility. Some of the freshmen we’ve ha in the past have been terrific. But they’ve sometimes been able to be a freshman in a game and (see) our team be able to win because of the supporting cast.
“(This year) we believe in our supporting cast and it’s important that our supporting cast plays well. Who plays the most minutes, takes the most shots and has the most responsibility? (It’s) Nico, Josh and Zeke. It’s been that way from game one through right now. We’ve fortunate to have them.”
- Zeke Nnaji enters Saturday’s game averaging 16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game (both lead the team.
- Nico Mannion averages 14 points and 2.3 rebounds
- And, Josh Green averages 12.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Combined, they average 53 percent of UA’s overall points and 42 percent of the rebounds.
“My hope is that they continue to get better and more comfortable,” Miller said.
Now that they should be settled in – they’ve looked pretty good to this point – it should be even better. The proof will be in two months when all the madness starts.
“Going into games now there are no excuses for us freshmen,” said Green. “I think we are used to the Pac-12 and college basketball in general. I think we’re ready to go.”