UA coach Sean Miller said today the NCAA was “very fair and transparent” during what was an outwardly opaque four-month ordeal over Allonzo Trier’s positive PED test, and defended decisions to stay quiet about it.
“It’s a process that had no history,” Miller said. “The NCAA did the best they could. They were extremely fair. They really had, I think, the student-athlete welfare at the forefront of a lot of things. It might not have felt that way to the outside. They were very communicative, very direct, very cooperative trying to hold to the standards that they need to hold to these types of issues too, but also being very fair and transparent at the same time.”
Miller also said he appreciated the time UA administrators put into the Trier case to make sure it was handled fairly.
Although Trier was conditionally cleared to play pending a clean drug test back in November, neither the UA or NCAA would comment on him then, or at any point until last week. I asked Miller why nobody would say anything once that decision point had been reached in November.
“There was just too many unknowns,” Miller said. “The No. 1 thing here is to protect the student-athlete privacy of a situation that was very complicated and to not at all harm him in any way. There are no secrets. Nobody’s hiding anything. It’s just a matter of trying to do right by the young man and if criticism comes on myself or somebody like Greg Byrne or our administration, we would much rather have the criticism pointed toward us than to do something to potentially harm a young person.”
I then asked Miller if, on the other hand, the swirl of speculation that grew out of UA's lack of transparency may have hurt Trier.
“No,” Miller said. “No. And I’m not gonna say anything further.”
Miller first declined to comment on what he termed "rumors" about Trier after the Oct. 14 Red-Blue Game and would not say why Trier was subbed out of the Oct. 21 Pac-12 media day. UA never categorized why Trier was not playing until last week, and neither would the NCAA.
As it is, there are still plenty of questions to be answered. Trier still has not said what drug he tested positive for, what his injury was, and the circumstances in which he took it, other than to say it was given to him by somebody not affiliated with UA (which is not a defense).
Trier also was not made available for comment after the NCAA notified UA of his negative drug test on Friday, nor after Saturday’s UA-UCLA game, and Dusan Ristic was the only player UA chose to be interviewed at today’s weekly news conference.
Miller says he’s ready to move on.
“The outcome came and I’m looking forward to not looking back,” he said. “We’ve lived that past and now it’s about incorporating a student-athlete into what we do. Somebody who came back after his freshman year for all the right reasons, worked as hard as any player that I’ve coached … He came back to be a better leader, to be on a better team and be overall a more complete player.
“He hasn’t had the opportunity to show those things. The leadership part, he has. Every day in the locker room, practicing hard, not knowing if he could play, I think you guys saw how he would have been during games. A lot of guys might have pouted or just sat quietly on the bench but he was the furthest thing from that. He’s always been engaged. And again it’s great to see him get the opportunity.”
Miller said he will determine over the next few days whether or not to put Trier back in the starting lineup, saying he’s not going to keep him out if he’s one of UA’s best five players, even if he did miss 19 games.
Lauri Markkanen’s Pac-12 Player of the Week award was not only his first but also the first of any UA players.
He has been by far UA’s most frequent nominee, but previously had some of his best efforts overshadowed by other players around the league. For example, he was a strong nominee after UA swept in the Bay area during the first weekend of conference play, but Dillon Brooks also had a strong weekend against USC and UCLA, and hit a buzzer-beater to beat the then-undefeated Bruins.
“He earned it,” Miller said. “He’s had plenty of weeks I know he’s been a candidate but the magnitude of the trip to USC and UCLA, and the quality of both teams playing that way I’m sure gave him the nod.”
“Lauri has had an outstanding season to this point and if you look at his statistics in conference play, he’s even better. And the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet he’s even better. That means defensively playing without fouling. He has quietly improved every day and it’s a big reason for our success.”