For over three months last season, Allonzo Trier lived in NCAA limbo.
Sometimes, it was hard to breathe.
“You become so magnified in the media and you’re not really a normal person because you’re a high-level college basketball athlete,” Trier said during the Pac-12 Tournament last season, seven weeks after he was cleared to return from a previously undisclosed positive PED test. “But at that point, I was living in a glass house. Everyone was looking at me.”
Trier missed half his sophomore season, since the NCAA had required he test clean before he was cleared to return in January. He opted to come back to Arizona for what he figured would be a full junior season.
Now, Trier — and his entire team — are stuck in a glass house.
There’s no telling at this point whether the FBI allegations involving Arizona could turn into NCAA sanctions this season or in the future, or if there will be nothing at all that will affect the Wildcats on the court.
And while the UA may still be the nation’s No. 1 team entering the season, there will be even more attention on what happens to them ahead on and off the court.
Trier has been there.
“You gotta be strong,” Trier said Thursday about what he learned last season. “You gotta learn to fight back. It’s not going to go your way. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be tough.
“But it’s how you respond to it that shows who you are as a person. I think we have a chance to respond to this by focusing on us as a team and coming together and really pushing each other to new heights.”
In a way, Trier’s absence early last season affected all the Wildcats.
They had to adjust without him on the court, deal with questions about him off it and watch him sit out games, his ever-striking competitive fire clamped to the bench.
Then they had to readjust when he came back.
It wasn’t easy for anybody on the Arizona roster. This season won’t be easy, either.
“It’s some adversity for us. It’s nothing we’re new to,” Trier said.
“We’re gonna focus on what we can control now and that’s how much better we can get every day in practice. ... I think this will all bring us closer together in the end.”
The Wildcats have already run into adversity on the court, too: The same day that assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested on federal bribery and fraud charges, starting forward Rawle Alkins was lost for 8-12 weeks with a broken foot.
The best-case scenario for the Wildcats has Alkins returning just in time for the Battle 4 Atlantis over Thanksgiving weekend.
The worst case puts Alkins back just before Pac-12 play begins on Dec. 30 against ASU.
“We have an understanding in our program that when we’re faced with adversity or someone goes down, it’s ‘next man up,’” Trier said. “So that next man at that position, which happens to be Brandon (Randolph) and Emmanuel (Akot), we understand that they’re going to have to come around a little bit faster.
“But with us pushing hard in practice, they’re going to be able to help us, and hopefully down the road when Rawle joins us — which he will — we will be that much better as a team.”
Maybe by then, the Wildcats will also know more about whether they can proceed ahead without fear of immediate NCAA sanctions.
While Arizona coach Sean Miller declined to say whether he believed NCAA issues could hit the Wildcats this season, he made it clear that Trier will be one of the team’s key leaders.
He also made it clear he thought Trier could be playing on an All-American level this season.
“In my mind, he’s positioned himself to be one of the best at what he does,” Miller said.
“He’s been through his fair share of adversity. He and I have talked a lot this offseason and our hope together is that he can have one of those seasons that are memorable, and one where he can string it together from start to finish, Day 1 all the way to the last game.”