Arizona guard Kerr Kriisa poked his head into the basketball press conference and asked Tommy Lloyd “are you coming?”
It brought some laughter by some of the media in the room.
It then brought this from Tommy Lloyd, “See, that’s what I have to deal with.”
And so, Arizona men’s basketball officially – Red-Blue Game aside – begins. And Kriisa is already in midseason form. Tommy’s ride-or-die guy is already being a thorn in the side of someone, even if it was in jest.
Kerr’s a pest, but he’s Arizona’s pest. He’s the guy Arizona fans love (well most of them) and opponents love to hate.
“I love him,” Tommy said when I asked about how he deals with Kerr’s personality. “He’s easy to coach. The guys fire. He’s got a fiery personality and he brings it every day. He listens when you coach him. I love it. I think it’s a good thing if you your players want to win, and he wants to win and he and he’s not afraid of it.”
Lloyd said he’ll sit down with Kriisa at some point soon.
“I don’t think you have to go over the top with the antics; I think his play will speak for itself,” Lloyd said. “But I love coaching him and I’m thankful that we have him.”
No matter the circumstances or not. Figure that Kriisa got into the face of NBA star Luka Doncic over the summer during the FIBA World qualifiers, finger waving and a little smack talk. Would it be anything else from Kerr, who played off the incident as a media-driven thing and “so over pushed.”
“He said something, I said something. It’s part of the game,” Kriisa said.
Lloyd had the line of Tuesday’s press conference:
“I pay no attention to the attention he gets,” he said.
So, there’s that. Now on to basketball where Kerr is hoping to shoot better than last year, where his touch was more than inconsistent, and his play went along with it. Then again, he had good days and bad days, and ultimately an ankle injury late into the season that caused him trouble until late May, maybe early June.
“It took a fat minute to get it straight,” Kriisa said on Tuesday. “I knew how bad it was.”
But as he said, “it is what it is” and he’s moved on, ready for his third season at Arizona.
He said his experience in international play over the summer helped with his confidence – for a man who doesn’t lack any.
“I work all summer and game day is like a party for us. You work your ass off and then there’s a game so you can go out there and hoop and play,” he said, of his confidence over the summer. “I hadn’t played since March. I was excited.”
He was referring to the incident over the summer, but yet that’s who he is: a guy full of personality and energy and antics. Like his press conference incident.
“I’m a die-hard Arizona fan or a die-hard Estonia fan,” he said. “If I put a jersey on it means that I’m representing that jersey for 120 percent. If some other club or somebody else doesn’t like me, why would I care. That’s none of my business. My business is to represent the A. And that the fans are happy and that we keep winning games. That’s all that matters to me.”
Winning could be a lot easier if he shoots the ball much better and perhaps take more shots inside the 3-point line. Last year, he shot 33 percent from beyond the line and just 34 percent overall. Of his 100 overall makes, only 20 were within the line.
Lloyd has made it a point to get Kriisa points from inside the line.
“In the beginning, of course, it’s stressful, because you don’t want to do the things that you’re not good at,” Kriisa said. “So, it took a little time to build time and patience in order to start doing those things. But I think I made a really, really good improvement this summer in that aspect.”
So, what can a fan – and the coaches – expect from Kerr this season?
“Come to the gym, you’ll see for yourself,” he said. “I’m not gonna tell them what they can see and what they can’t see. If they want to see some wins and see the team do good, then they better come to McKale.”