Arizona's Jordin Mayes gets fouled by Memphis' Wesley Witherspoon on a steal attempt from behind in the first half. Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star

TULSA, Okla. - Solomon Hill has known Jordin Mayes for four years.

"Quietest player I've ever played with," Hill said.

MoMo Jones tries to get a rise out of the mellow freshman in practice, poking at him, physically and verbally.

"He may throw an elbow or two," Jones said, "but he never really says anything."

Even soft-spoken Kyle Fogg calls him "definitely one of the most quiet people I've met."

The best way to describe Mayes, the Arizona Wildcats' backup point guard, is certainly not with words that come from his mouth.

Polite, Mayes answers questions honestly. But he's just not much of a talker.

"Jordin's very quiet, no question," UA coach Sean Miller said Saturday, one day before the Wildcats' game against Texas for a berth in the Sweet 16. "He's also really been a great player for us as a freshman."

Without him, the Wildcats probably wouldn't have defeated the Memphis Tigers in Thursday's NCAA tournament second-round game.

With 13:28 left in the game and trailing by three, the Wildcats - for the first time - played Mayes and fellow point guard MoMo Jones together in a game. With shooting guard Fogg and wing Kevin Parrom in foul trouble, Mayes filled in with eight points. He made both field-goal attempts, his only three-point try and all three free-throw attempts, including two in the last minute.

Entering the game, he had made only 11 free throws all season, out of 25 attempts. His free throw percentage was almost the same as his three-point percentage.

Mayes - nicknamed "Box Body" for his build - said he was losing focus at the line, and needed to focus on pushing his heels high in the air as he released the ball.

"I was rushing it a little bit," he said. "I just wanted to take my time. We have 10 seconds to shoot it."

Mayes' development has saved the Wildcats twice in a week. His scoring spurt against USC helped seal the victory in the Pac-10 semifinals.

His future at the UA is probably as a combo guard - Mayes said Miller already told him to plan on playing point guard and shooting guard next season - but the freshman said he thinks like a ball-handler.

"I just let my game do the talking for me," he said.

The Los Angeles Westchester High School grad's quiet reputation is for reasons beyond his mouth. He takes long strides when he runs and has very few extraneous hand or arm movements.

In baseball, such physical efficiency is known as having "quiet" hands

"A laid-back player," is how Mayes describes it. "They don't think I've got the aggressiveness to keep attacking, keep attacking.

"I've been playing like that my whole life. That's just me. That's who I am."

Jones said any player's personality naturally shines through in his style of game. Also, he said, Mayes can afford to be subtle.

"He can come on the floor and be him because I'm me," Jones said. "He doesn't have to take on that responsibility of getting everything going."

Hill smiled when told of the comment.

"That's just who they are," he said. "Sometimes MoMo just screams for no reason.

"And then you've got Jordin at the point guard position, he's kinda quiet. I think that's just setting him back a little bit.

"At the point-guard position, you don't see many guys being quiet."

Mayes is playing his best basketball of the year. He totaled 20 points in the last three games, his best such stretch since before Christmas. He made 5 of 6 three-point attempts and has a 5-2 assist-turnover ratio.

Given the past week, Mayes figures to be heard from today against Texas.

Even if he's not the one talking.

"He's a mellow dude," Jones said. "But he gets the job done."