Arizona Basketball

Tommy Lloyd: ‘They were excited to play’

By the end of the afternoon, the best thing about Saturday’s Red-Blue Game for Tommy Lloyd was, well, that he saw UA “get to compete as a team.”

It wasn’t Dalen Terry winning the dunk contest or the fans in the stands. And everything that goes with it.

Of course, those were all important – as many other things were too, he did have some recruits in town and of course that’s important – but getting to see his new team in McKale Center in front of about 10,000 fans was exactly what he wanted.

Tommy Lloyd addressing the media after the Red-Blue Game.

“And then you take this (a stat sheet), and you look at it,” Lloyd said. “Coaches are legendary for musing over stat sheets and dissecting in every other way. Then you get the film on your computer and start watching and that’s what I love. What’s the next steps? And trying to figure it out.”

He likes it because he’s way – waaaayyy – early in the process given Saturday’s Red-Blue game was just the fourth full practice he’s been able to see his team in a scrimmage situation like that. They went fast – and sometimes loose – but it looked good. Very good at times.

“I have a general idea of how I want to play but it’s also not set in stone,” Lloyd said. “We’re going to make adjustments based on personnel. And we will determine how to make this the best team possible.”

I’ll say this here and now: Arizona will be better than people (experts included) think and finish no worse than fourth in the Pac-12, maybe even as high as No. 3 behind Oregon and UCLA or UCLA and Oregon (whatever order).

You’ll see how much his players will enjoy playing for him. You can already see it, given they looked relaxed and excited to put on a show. Not that they didn’t before, but this is different.

It has a more relaxed tone to the season.

“They were excited to play,” he said. “They’ve been a good group on a day-to-day basis.”

What’s important to Lloyd is that they were “better today than Wednesday.”

“It wasn’t as good as it can be (but) we took a step forward and can get some things cleaned up,” he said. “Hopefully next Saturday is better than today.”

As for some of the fun, Lloyd loved the crowd telling it before the game, “let’s enjoy this ride together.”

But it’s not every day you’ll have those eye-popping dunks by his players. You’ll clearly not see the one from Terry who won the contest by hitting dunk after an off-the-court bounce pass from Justin Kier.

“What was more impressive to me was that Dalen drove the ball hard baseline hard then jump stopped, pivot, pivot, pivot and found Azuolas (Tubelis) for a jumper,” Lloyd said. “That was more impressive than alley-oop dunk bounced off the floor from (out of bounds). I don’t think we’re going to do that this year.”

Nope. But it was fun to see him in an old-school jersey – Luke Walton’s – jumping up a storm with a big smile on his face. It took a couple of passes from teammate Kier to get it right but his perfect scored sealed the deal.

“I knew I was going to win,” he said.

He was helped by the crowd – something that wasn’t there last year because COVID-19 – and the “adrenaline (that was) crazy” in McKale.

Kim Aiken, Jr., a transfer from Eastern Washington, said he felt the crowd, too, having never played in something like that before and clearly never in front of a crowd like that in Washington. He did, however, player here last year when he went 1 for 7 from the 3-point line. He went 4 for 4 from the 3-point line on Saturday.

“I think 3-point shooting is going to be huge for the team this year,” Aiken said, adding that he worked out with former Gonzaga great Corey Kispert over the summer to get ready for this season.

And just like that the day was done and now they can concentrate on their first game with Eastern New Mexico on Nov. 1.

“I think it’s a team they are really going to like,” Lloyd said. “Hopefully they came away that it was a good first impression.”

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