Allonzo Trier’s elongated, opaque quest for eligibility may have made some progress last weekend when he traveled with the Wildcats to Los Angeles.
UA coach Sean Miller said Monday that the NCAA permitted Trier to travel for the game against Gonzaga, though he said the NCAA did not allow him to do so for road trips last month to Honolulu and Las Vegas.
However, when the Star asked if the change represented a good sign for the UA, Miller said it wasn’t.
“No,” Miller said. “The only good sign is when he walks out there and plays.”
Normally, players ineligible under NCAA standards are unable to travel unless they pay their own way, but some situations are handled in a case-by-case manner. UA athletic director Greg Byrne also confirmed via text message Monday that Trier “is able to travel,” but did not respond when asked if something changed with Trier’s situation between the Las Vegas and Los Angeles trips.
Arizona’s top returning scorer, Trier has missed all eight of UA’s regular-season games while appealing for NCAA eligibility. The UA has consistently declined to comment on his eligibility status since the issue surfaced in mid-October.
‘2 months’ possible for PJC
Parker Jackson-Cartwright’s recovery timetable may be on the higher side of the typical 4-to-8 week window for high ankle sprains.
The UA initially declined to give a firm timetable after Jackson-Cartwright sprained his right ankle against Texas Southern on Nov. 30, saying more time was needed for a better determination, but Miller didn’t appear optimistic when asked Monday if he knew more .
“I don’t know,” Miller said. “Two months, I guess. Eight weeks.”
Eight weeks would mean Jackson-Cartwright would miss seven Pac-12 games and not be back until the Wildcats host Washington State on Jan. 26 – after a potentially crucial road swing from Jan. 19-21 to play at USC and UCLA.
When asked if such a prognosis changes anything about how he’ll prepare for Pac-12 play, Miller shook his head.
“It’s like putting an ATM card in and if there’s nothing in there. ... It’s just ‘here we go,’” Miller said. “We’re gonna make the best of it and figure it out. We’re making the best of it and we have a lot of players who came to Arizona to have big, big roles, and believe me, everyone of them does right now.”
In Jackson-Cartwright’s absence, Miller moved Kadeem Allen to point guard Saturday against Gonzaga, while freshman shooting guard Kobi Simmons has slid over to back him up.
Miller not concerned
about signee Ayton
Although 24/7 Sports recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer cast doubt Sunday on Twitter over whether top UA signee DeAndre Ayton would play for the Wildcats next season, Miller said he still fully expects him to do so.
Meyer tweeted Sunday that Ayton had a visa issue in his native Bahamas that kept him out of a basketball event last weekend, and when asked about Ayton’s chances of playing in college, wrote, “I have serious doubts.”
In a phone conversation with the Star on Monday morning, Meyer elaborated.
“I’m just answering the question and stating the obvious,” Meyer said. “The NCAA has investigated his school (Hillcrest Prep), and DeAndre Ayton would have great earning power overseas. So there’s doubts. But in no way am I saying he won’t play at Arizona.”
The consensus No. 1-rated recruit in the high school class of 2017, Ayton signed with the UA last month, and Miller said then — and Monday — that he expects Ayton to play for him next season.
“He’s fine, all set, doing well academically and trying to finish his senior year of high school,” Miller said of Ayton. “Being able to finish his senior year in a positive way and have a great year, I’ll have no doubts he’ll do that. He’s doing a great job in school, and we’re excited to have him as part of what we’re doing in the future.”
Arizona lost its top recruit in 2016, guard Terrance Ferguson, when he signed a pro contract in Australia and an apparel deal last summer, though Ferguson spent two years at a high school from which the NCAA said it would not accept coursework.
Eye to eye
While UA center Dusan Ristic faced smaller post players through the the first seven games, he was forced to look straight at Gonzaga 7-footer Przemek Karnowski on Saturday.
And to do so by himself, since the UA mostly opted to single-cover Karnowski while staying fully committed to the Zags’ three-point shooters. That strategy resulted in Gonzaga shooting only 33 percent from long range — but Karnowski getting 18 points inside on 9-for-13 shooting.
“We already knew he was a great passer and a lot of teams double-team him, but he can really throw a great pass to their shooters,” Ristic said Monday. “We saw that as a threat to our defense and decided to play one-on-one. We stopped him in one area, but he hurt us inside. We learned something form that, and next time we face somebody like that we’ll be more prepared.”
Next time might be now. Tuesday’s opponent, UC Irvine, features 7-foot-2 Greek center in Ioannis Dimakopoulos, though he has more of a face-up offensive game than Karnowski. Ristic has faced Dimakopoulos several times previously during European tournaments.
Partners in adversity
While Arizona has been without its top returning scorer in Trier and now its only true point guard in Jackson-Cartwright, UC Irvine has issues of its own.
The Anteaters lost five seniors off a team that tied for the Big West title last season, but also 7-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye, who left as a junior for the NBA but was not drafted. What’s more, they have played without all-Big West guard Luke Nelson all season because of a hamstring injury.
“We’ve just had to rely on other players,” coach Russell Turner said. “At this stage, we’re starting Max Hazzard who’s a (redshirt) freshmen and the players off the bench are almost all freshmen.
“We’re trying to do at our level what Arizona is trying to do at their level (without key players) — and they’re doing it better.”
• Arizona fell from No. 16 to No. 20 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, keeping a streak of 83 straight appearances.
• UCLA forward T.J. Leaf was named the Pac-12’s Player of the Week after collecting 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in the Bruins’ 97-92 upset win at Kentucky on Saturday.