Banished to the bench the past three games to rest a strained groin, Jamelle McMillan has done a good impersonation of his father.

He has coached.

The son of Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan has cheered and encouraged and stayed engaged.

His teammates, though, are eager to have the senior point guard back in uniform today against the Arizona Wildcats.

He has been practicing, though not at 100 percent, and is expected to start.

"He's a great defender," guard Ty Abbott said. "He's one of our leaders. He's one of our generals. He's always even-keeled. He keeps everybody kinda under control.

"He's a guy that you definitely miss."

The past two years, ASU is 50-23 with McMillan and 6-5 without him. The team allows 57.1 points with him atop the zone defense, and 68.2 when he misses a game.

McMillan was injured Dec. 2 against Richmond.

ASU coach Herb Sendek said McMillan is "moving in the right direction," but that, to heal the injury, "there's nothing like time."

A former point guard, UA coach Sean Miller said he could tell the Sun Devils (9-7, 1-3) miss McMillan.

"The game's harder for his teammates," he said, "because he just really knows how to play the game."

Abbott owns McKale

The past 27 years, only three visiting Pac-10 teams have won three straight at McKale Center.

Abbott has been on one of them. ASU's senior guard has never lost in Tucson.

"It's always exciting," he said of the game. "There's not any words to really describe it. It's crazy."

Abbott says he "forgot" last year's rivalry controversies.

In Tempe, he was knocked to the ground by Kevin Parrom on a layup, sparking Parrom's "No Easy Buckets" Twitter posting.

In Tucson, Abbott scored 28 points, and Parrom was banished to the locker room after a postgame altercation with Derek Glasser.

Abbott said he "probably" won't use the stories to motivate teammates.

"I just tell them, 'Play hard,'" the Phoenician said. "'It's a win we gotta get. It's conference.'"

He said he wouldn't call UA fans "nasty." Polite?

"I wouldn't say that, either," he said with a smile.

Rim shots

• Sendek called the UA "one of the best teams in the country" but saved the most praise for forward Derrick Williams.

Williams is "an All-American," he said and "as good as I've seen in a long time."

• ASU is the only Pac-10 team with winning conference road records - 5-4 - the past two seasons.