Refreshed and free-spirited, Arizona basketball coach Tommy Lloyd got in front of the local media on Friday morning to discuss an array of topics – players, schedule and more – before the doldrums of the summer officially hit.
“We’re reloaded and excited for what lies ahead,” Lloyd said.
He even joked -well, that’s how it seemed – when asked about his reaction to the fan’s reaction to him not doing a good job of getting players to come to Arizona shorting after the season ended. As it turned out, the last month has been very, very good to Lloyd and UA, given he’s brought in a strong group of recruits for the upcoming season.
“That happened, I wasn’t aware,” he said, with a slight smirk referring to the fan’s criticism. “I had my head down and was working. I got a trust in myself and in our program and in our staff that things are always going to turn out and you know, we just work day to day and kept the faith and I think we ended up in a great spot.”
It helped – for whatever that’s worth – with many pundits placing UA higher up in their preseason top 25 polls. One has UA as high as 10th. Again, for whatever that’s worth.
As he put it, “there was never a reason to panic,” he said. “We’ve got good guys.”
Here’s a few questions Lloyd answered looking ahead, including a team trip UA will be taking to Israel in mid-August.
Are big roster turnovers going to continue to happen? Is this new normal?
“We’re gonna see,” he said. “I’m not great at speaking and definitives or superlatives on this stuff. Obviously, there’s been a lot of changes and changes can be a good thing. And you just have to figure out how they’re going to work for you and your program, how they’re going to work for your players. I’m going to double down more than ever on recruiting great guys and build great relationships with them and really invest in the players in our program and do the best job we can to build a great culture that’s sustainable. Nothing’s gonna veer me off that path.”
How did the recruitment of Caleb Love (via North Carolina and then Michigan) happen?
“Caleb made a decision to go somewhere else, and we were kind of involved with him early and, you know, nothing wrong happened the first time around. I think he had a previous relationship with Michigan, and they had recruited him out of high school and, and he went there and you know, they weren’t able to work it out academically for whatever reason. And then, we got his stuff and he’s a solid student. Arizona had no problem putting together a plan for him. We were fortunate. Caleb’s obviously a proven player and he’s been great. He’s been a real joy to be around and been a great teammate and fun to work with.”
Through two years, you’ve been a coach where you fit pieces together. How does this year look along those lines?
“We got a lot of pieces and I think they fit well together. I don’t think we got a lot of guys with jagged edges. We got guys that complement each other and I think we have a team that’s going to have the ability to play incredibly hard. As always, we’re gonna we’re gonna strive to play incredibly unselfish and very aggressive. I feel really good when I look at our roster. And how certain individuals complement each other.”
You have Filip Borovicanin and Kylan Boswell playing in an international competition this summer, what are you expecting from them?
“These awesome opportunities to represent your country in a well-respected event. These guys have a chance to get an experience and make memories of a lifetime. I look for both guys to be key contributors on their team.”
How did the recruitment of Keshad Johnson go and how did it end up with that you get to attend his graduation party?
“He’s a great guy. As of all the guys are, but he has a real special ability to make teams better and he’s just an amazing, high character person. We were kind of going back and forth in his recruitment. He had asked us (that) if we do this, would you guys be able to attend my graduation ceremony up in the Bay Area? I told him the only way we could do it is if he signed. That’s true. So, he signed and so we headed that way and it was really cool. He’s the first person in his family to graduate from college and it was awesome to meet everybody. Tucson and McKale are gonna love him.”
Pelle Larsson went through the NBA draft process but came back, what do you expect from Pelle this year?
“He didn’t get too far into the draft process. We’ve had a lot of conversations on where he’s at as a player … he’s a really good player. The exciting thing about him is there’s still steps to be taken. Everyone kind of comes into their own in their own time. And I think Pella is primed to have an amazing fourth year in college here next year.”
Back in the day, players left because they are unhappy with playing time, just unhappy, now there’s NIL and even good players are leaving, what do you think are the reasons?
“I think what you’re seeing in college basketball right now is just a really interesting window and I think everybody’s focused on the NIL and the transfer portal, but one of the most interesting aspects is you’re in this COVID window so you are getting an extra year of eligibility. You’re having 20% potentially more players in your pool. That just creates roster movement. Guys are getting longer in the tooth in their careers and getting deeper. Maybe they want to explore other opportunities. Certain schools the NIL situations are not great and in others it’s doing better so guys want to see where they fall and what advantages they can take … what opportunities they can take advantage of … but I honestly think that there’s going to be a cooling down and the waters won’t be so choppy here in their future.”
You have a great schedule next year, including adding five games against power conference opponents. Is this the kind of scheduling you envision every year?
“You look at what opportunities become available. There’s a lot of things behind the scenes ideas floated and things like that. You figure out where you’re at as a program. We want to be one of the best programs in the country. So, we want to take some swings in the non-conference. I think it’s great for our team. I think it’s great for our fan base. And, you know, I can’t predict, you know, there’s not like a set formula that we have for it, but I love our schedule. I think it’s really going to be challenging; there’s a lot of great opportunities.”
Can you talk about your summer trip to Israel?
“I’ve never done a foreign tour. So I’m excited for that. And as you guys know, I’d love to travel and see different places. And, you know, I think a lot of the details, specifics are still getting worked out. We’re not just going to be going to Israel, we’re going to Abu Dhabi. The competition is going to be great. I don’t think you’re going to see us playing a bunch of thrown together all-star makeshift teams. It’ll be really valuable for us. I’m looking forward just for the life experience for our guys. I don’t know if any of you guys have ever been to Israel, but if you haven’t, you gotta go. Amazing. I haven’t been to Abu Dhabi. I’ve been to Dubai. And I’ve heard great things about Abu Dhabi. I mean, it’s an extremely unique place and I think for our guys to go there and get that experience will be something they’ll remember more than the games for the rest of their life. College used to be about those things. You show young adults what it is to travel and maybe you know they get a little bug. think the more people travel I think the better, more well-rounded people they become and the more perspectives they see. That’s something I can pass on to my players. I would love to do that. So this is we’re going to take this opportunity and then hopefully have a great time.”