Freshman forward Sidiki Johnson returned to Arizona over the weekend - but not to rejoin the Wildcat basketball team.
UA coach Sean Miller said Sunday that Johnson returned only to finish up the academic semester, and that it is still possible Johnson might be dismissed or transfer from Arizona, after the player remained in New York for a week following the 2K Sports Classic.
Miller said Johnson also could "earn his way" back on the team, but that would take a lengthy process.
"I don't think you'll see Sidiki play for Arizona for a long time," Miller said.
Miller said Johnson would not travel to Las Cruces, N.M., for the Wildcats' game with New Mexico State on Tuesday and would not practice or take part in any team activities.
Johnson will, however, finish up the fall academic semester - and if he keeps his eligibility intact, Johnson would be eligible to receive a release from Arizona should he decide to transfer. A release allows athletes to be contacted by other schools during their subsequent recruitment.
"Now he's going to try to work hard over these next two-and-a-half weeks to make sure academically he does the best he can to end this first semester," Miller said. "His focus is strictly academics. He's not going to practice or do anything that our team does."
UA does not automatically release athletes who leave their teams unless they are academically eligible. If they leave ineligible, UA would be penalized two points in the Academic Progress Ratings that measure retention and eligibility; the Wildcats would lose only one point if Johnson left while eligible.
Without saying which players would start Tuesday, Miller said he will go with a new starting five for the New Mexico State game.
For the past four games, Miller has started Jordin Mayes at point guard, Kyle Fogg at shooting guard, Solomon Hill at small forward, Jesse Perry at power forward and Kyryl Natyazhko at center.
However, with that lineup, the Wildcats stumbled to a 7-0 deficit against Mississippi State and were down 21-4 against San Diego State. UA went on to lose both of those games.
"The same five that started against San Diego State will never start another game (together) at Arizona," Miller said.
Miller said he has not "worked out yet" whether Angelo Chol or Perry could start at center, though he said this:
"You look at the center position, that doesn't play with a lot of confidence," Miller said. "We're trying to adjust that in our own team, trying to figure out the way we can be the best we can be."
Miller also said he was not sure whether Josiah Turner would start over Mayes at point guard. Turner started UA's Nov. 7 opener against Valparaiso but was benched for the start on Nov. 9 against Duquesne for being late to a team shootaround.
One player who would not surprise if he showed up in the starting lineup is guard Nick Johnson, who has averaged 24.3 minutes off the bench and 9.7 points per game.
UA's other rotation patterns could be affected, too.
"At the end of the day, we're a team like New Mexico State, that's trying to play nine or 10 players," Miller said. "We need contributions from everybody, from our bench and we need guys to come into the game with confidence and add value to what we're doing."
The Wildcats had Thanksgiving Day off but practiced Friday through Sunday, and they are scheduled for another workout today before busing to Las Cruces late this afternoon in preparation for Tuesday's game.
Reached by telephone before Sunday's practice, Miller was less than enthusiastic about how the weekend was going.
"Our practices have been OK," Miller said. "We're really trying to become a better team. We have a lot of things to improve on."
Arizona was too busy to practice much after beginning the season with five games in 12 days.
But since then, they've had time to work on their issues before preparing for New Mexico State. They also had more practice time last week, Miller noted.
"I thought we did that after we played in New York City, and we were actually down 21-4" to San Diego State, Miller said.
"All of our hard practices - and trying to get better at the things we do - didn't work in that game."
• Who: Arizona at New Mexico State
• When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
• TV: FSAZ Plus