How will Coach Sean Miller adapt to playing with a “Big” lineup for next Year’s Arizona Wildcat Basketball team?


In last week’s Mueller Genuine Draft I looked into how this year’s Arizona Wildcats basketball team is getting used to playing small ball, or “Miller ball”.  With the recruiting class that the team has coming to Tucson next year it looks like Coach will have to change his small ball philosophy to make room for a big lineup. Or will he?

I think the easiest way to look at how drastic a change this will be for Coach Miller is to look at the frontcourt by just a pure sense of height from this year to next year.  This year’s Wildcat squad has a frontcourt of  Jesse Perry having to guard the other starting five spot and he is 6’7’. Next year’s team will have Kaleb Tarczewski as starting center at 7’0”.  Solomon Hill (6’6”) and Kyle Fogg (6’3) round out our starting “forwards” this year (we all know the Cat’s play 3 guards, but they still have to guard the other team).  Next year (and this is pure speculation) we will have Grant Jerrett (6’10”) and Brandon Ashley (6’8”) round out our starting frontcourt.  What a change!!!  I think the biggest question that comes to mind is: How is Coach Miller going to make this work?

We have seen in the 3 years that Coach Miller has been here that Kyryl Natyazhko (6’11”) and Alex “Tree” Jacobson (7’0”) have not really been in coach’s good graces, so they have been sitting on the bench for the majority of their time in Tucson.  Sean Miller was a point guard so he knows how to run a team from that perspective.  It shows in his offensive philosophy where the team has a lot of motion with shooters spacing the floor.  In fact, in his head coaching career you don’t see big men getting accolades the entire time that Coach Miller has been head coach.  At Xavier from 2004-2009 the stars on the teams were the likes of Drew Lavendar (5’7”), Stanley Burrell (6’3”),  and BJ Raymond (6’6”).  It is true that both Derrick Brown (6’8”) and Derrick Williams (Arizona forward 6’8”) were stars on his teams but they played with the up tempo style and with a lot of shooters spacing the floor as well. So how will next year’s three “bigs” fit into Miller’s system.

First off all, three freshmen don’t necessarily have to start the game, and with Solomon Hill likely back next year they probably won’t all start.  Assuming they do start or that they will be on the court for long stretches together, here is how it will work.  Starting at the center position, Kaleb Tarczewski is a true center by every stretch of the imagination, so we will not see him out on the three point line stretching defenses.  He will be making his contributions down in the post on both ends of the floor, but he supposedly has better hands and finishing moves in his arsenal than what we have seen on our current team.

The versatility of the team will come in the form of the other two freshman forwards.  Brandon Ashley can play either forward spot at 6’8” tall.  He has improved his range up to 17 feet and with Coach Miller’s guidance I’m sure he will continue to improve on his range.  Grant Jerrett is the other piece of the Miller puzzle that gives the team a lot of versatility.  At 6’10” he can step out and shoot the three point shot with consistency and is already a great mid-range shooter.  He can also score in the paint with either hand and is a gifted passer out of the post.  This all leads to a team not much unlike what we have right now, but a few inches taller and with a true center.

It all remains to be seen, but as of right now the future looks bright in Tucson.  The team will have some slight changes from playing “small ball,” but the overall coaching philosophy of Coach Miller should remain in tact next year.

One last note:I hate to look forward to next year but I have been wondering about how he is going to make it work next year for quite some time now. My apologies to anyone who thinks it is strange that I’m looking to next year.