Every Sunday night during basketball season, the Pac-12 emails a ballot of nominees for its weekly Player of the Week award to media members who regularly cover the league.
In week one, the decision was probably over at that point.
Because Arizona arguably had the two top candidates for the award, and it chose Allonzo Trier over Deandre Ayton to be its nominee.
Sure enough, after Trier scored 62 points on remarkably efficient shooting in a pair of UA wins last weekend, the junior guard went on to beat out a long list of Pac-12 counterparts who also had big weekends.
Stanford’s Reid Travis averaged 24.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in two wins, Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle scored 24 points and hit a three-fourths–court shot at the halftime buzzer against Southern Utah, UCLA’s Kris Wilkes scored 18 points to lead the shorthanded Bruins over Georgia Tech in China, and Cal’s Don Coleman also put up two 30-point games, one of them a Bears loss.
But Trier was ruthlessly efficient, with 32 points on 10-for-13 shooting on Friday in UA’s 101-67 win over NAU and 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting to help the Wildcats beat UMBC 103-78 on Sunday. Trier also averaged 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists for the weekend.
Trier became the first UA player during the Sean Miller era to score 30 points in back-to-back games and the first to do so in the opening two games of a season since Michael Dickerson had 31 points each against North Carolina and NAU at the beginning of UA’s 1996-97 national championship season.
Arizona, perhaps sensing that Trier’s scoring might best assure that one of its players would win the Pac-12 award, made the difficult choice to pick him over Ayton, the 7-foot freshman phenom who averaged a double-double over the weekend.
Ayton had 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting with 12 rebounds against NAU, then 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting with 13 rebounds against UMBC while lighting up social media with some showy dunks.
While Miller said Trier is “very efficient with how he’s playing the game right now,” the coach said Trier’s production is also due to his teammates, since he’s surrounded by a number of other scoring threats.
In fact, sometimes Ayton is viewed as so much of a threat that teams will double-team him inside, leaving just three guys to guard Trier and everyone else.
That’s an obvious advantage for the Wildcats that played out repeatedly over the weekend, especially when Ayton managed to pass the ball out of the double-team. Miller said Ayton is remarkably good at it for a freshman.
“It’s so hard for young guys to know when to give it up, when to pass and when not to,” Miller said.
“Sometimes they appear to be clumsy or selfish and it’s really not the case. It’s just that their back is to the basket and all these different schemes are, like, swarming them. It takes time to grow and learn, and he can do it now.
“Allonzo’s been the beneficiary of a number of different looks where Deandre found the first open man (to pass to), and all of a sudden the ball is swinging and Allonzo will be more than happy to take that open shot. You don’t have to talk him into it. But that unselfishness from our post players is a good characteristic to have.”
At the same time, Miller has repeatedly praised Trier for his work ethic and resiliency despite missing the first half of last season because of a positive PED test.
Trier, who also missed a month of Pac-12 play as a freshman with a broken hand, returned from suspension last season to become Arizona’s leading scorer and win the Pac-12 Tournament MVP award.
“Allonzo has put in as much work on the game of basketball as any player we’ve had,” Miller said. “He’s fought through his own adversity. I think it’s helped him. It’s allowed him to grow up. He’s more mature. He’s the best teammate he’s ever been.
“But certainly from an offensive perspective, he takes a backseat to nobody who is playing this game. If you leave him open, he’s gonna make the shot and he’s an incredible free-throw shooter. He’s always had a gift of being able to get there. I just feel he does it in a more efficient way than ever before.”
The Pac-12 weekly award is the first in-season award for Trier after a collection of preseason honors. Trier was named a second-team all-American by Athlon and Street & Smith’s college basketball annuals, and then made the five-man first team Associated Press All-American preseason team last week.
Trier was the third-leading vote-getter on the AP team, behind Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson.
“Allonzo is well-deserving,” Miller said. “I don’t know if anyone plays the game better at his position than him, when you consider not just his ability to score but his development into an efficient player, a better defensive player and more of a great teammate. All of those things allow you to be an All-American.”