During practices, Sean Miller likes to have his players participate in a friendly competition called “Five Minute Shooting.” It’s a simple game – four shooters on both ends of the court shoot for five minutes – where 200 made shots is the bench mark.
In more than a dozen times that the coaching staff has run it, both sides of shooters have always surpassed 200. While it may not speak the same volumes as Arizona’s 94 points in a resounding win over Long Beach State, it has provided the coaching staff with confidence that every member of the 10 man rotation can make contributions offensively.
On Monday night, it was senior Kevin Parrom who was feeling it from deep, as he made all five of his three point attempts. To Kevin, it was no big deal of course, as he views himself as, “the shooter on the team.”
Sitting right next to Parrom when he said that was fellow senior Solomon Hill, who couldn’t help but grin. “I had an off day today. Kevin has his off days. On any given night, it could be someone different,” said Hill, the unquestioned cleric of the team.
But the biggest contributor to Arizona’s 22 point blowout was not one of the Cats’ better shooters, as Brandon Ashley banged his way to a 20 point, 10 rebound double-double in a statement performance that should catch the eyes of some NBA scouts.
Drawing easy comparisons to Derrick Williams, Ashley used his 6’8, 235 lb frame to reach the free throw line nine times. He also went 6-6 from the field, although only one of his shots came from outside the post.
Miller, not one to sugarcoat how he feels about all-around effort from his players gushed over Ashley’s practice demeanor, “He’s a much more consistent, every day player. He’s working harder than he’s ever had to.”
Ashley’s strong play in between last game and Tuesday was the key reason why he received the starting nod over Grant Jerrett today. And lineup switches won’t be limited to just the power forward position. “We want to reward players who are working hard and doing it every day. I can see that Kaleb at times won’t start and Angelo will,” said Miller.
One constant, no matter who is among the starting five, is that Arizona’s decisive height and depth advantage in the paint will torment opposing teams.
A successful offensive possession in the post for Long Beach State was not having the shot blocked by the long arms of Ashley or Tarczewski, who combined for six rejections. Interior defense has gone from perhaps Arizona’s most glaring weakness to its biggest strength thanks to the top recruiting class in school history.
Arizona shot a more than respectable 54% but as with any team trying to find its offensive and defensive identity, there is room for improvement. For the Cats, that comes in the form of better guarding the perimeter. As Miller referenced in his lone critique of Parrom’s performance, “You can’t make five threes and give up six.”
With Thanksgiving break upcoming and no games to be played for over a week, Arizona will have plenty of time to work out its kinks, and there aren’t many. So far the Cats have looked good this year, and the future looks even better.