The University of Arizona men’s basketball team got the party started on Friday night. It’ll be put on pause for more than a month when the reason season starts.
But, for what it was worth Friday night proved to be a very good start for Tommy Lloyd & Company.
As Lloyd said he’ll “let it rip” this season – his second with the Wildcats in hopes he’ll orchestrate the same, if not better, magic as year one where they ended in the Sweet 16.
What was the message he told them to start practice?
“Kick ass,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do.”
Loud and clear. What 18 to 23 year old wouldn’t like to hear that from their 40-something year old coach?
What could Tommy possibly get from a fun-filled game from the annual Red-Blue Game, where defense was, well, what it was and the shooting, was, well, what it was. But the film will be broken down and he’ll go from there. But Friday was for the present and the past.
“It’s great to have them play in front of a whole stadium,” he said. “You can’t simulate that experience in practice. I did want our guys to have a good time and I wanted to be a celebration …”
And so, it was.
DeAndre Ayton, the multi-millionaire of the Phoenix Suns was in the building.
Rawle Alkins was in the building.
Laurie Markkanen was here
Richard Jefferson, check.
Jason Terry, too, in the house to go with the 10,000 Arizona faithful to see what 2022-23 brings.
It was fun, but not pretty. UA didn’t shoot the ball well and it didn’t take care of the ball well.
Oh well, as Tommy said it was just Day 4 into the practice season and there’s a lot to work on.
“Par for the course,” he said.
On the other side, Oumar Ballo looked good and mobile. “His movement is so much better,” Lloyd said.
Newcomer Henri Veesaar, despite his thin frame, looks like he’ll be a factor near the basket and from far. And for a 7-footer he can handle the ball.
“You guys know I love bigs,” Tommy said. “I may be a dinosaur where I love playing two bigs together. I think there are a lot of advantages to that, certainly disadvantages.”
Specific to Veesaar, Tommy said he’s had his ups and downs this fall but every freshmen do.
“Henri is obviously talented,” Lloyd said. “He’s a great kid. I’m glad he had success (Friday). Henri is going to have a real impact on this team. He’s quick twitch and has a great second jump. He’s got a high IQ. He’s going to have to physically develop a bit, but in this system, he’s going to put up pretty significant numbers.”
He said he was – or did – offer up a “big hug” to his fellow Estonian Kerr Kriisa for the three assists on Friday night.
Let the hugfest begin!