You probably won't be able to miss Arizona's four talented freshmen during Sunday's Red-Blue Game. But the Wildcats quietly will also be unveiling another big key to their future.
T.J. McConnell, the Wildcats' junior point guard from Duquesne, will be making his only public appearance of the season. As a transfer, McConnell must sit out the season and is not eligible to play in exhibition games, only home practices and scrimmages such as the Red-Blue Game.
His situation differs from that of junior forward Matt Korcheck, who transferred from Cochise College. Korcheck is intending to redshirt but because he is eligible to play and is in his first year at UA, he is able to play in the two exhibition games and still redshirt provided he does not play in a regular-season game.
Sitting out all season could be a source of frustration for McConnell, who was given third-team All-Atlantic 10 honors and made the conference's all-defensive team last season. But McConnell, who is expected to take over for Mark Lyons at the point in 2013-14, says he's just happy to be at UA.
"I want to thank the coaches for the opportunity," McConnell said. "Everything's been great, and they've welcomed me with open arms. … I'm just trying to get familiar with the offense and doing whatever the team needs me to do."
McConnell's team-first mentality isn't just evident in his words. His new teammates say they see it on the court, too. With two years of experience at Duquesne, McConnell has been bringing his true point-guard skills and mentality to practices.
"T.J. is a unique player," sophomore guard Nick Johnson said. "He's probably the best pure point guard that I've ever seen or played against. He'll pass up an open layup to get somebody else an assist. He sees everything. He's just a special player. Next year, the Arizona fans are definitely going to love him."
McConnell actually - and unwittingly - gave Wildcat fans a preview of what he can do last season. He helped keep the Dukes in an early season game at McKale Center by filling the box score with nine points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. UA won 67-59 but trailed by two at halftime.
Forward Solomon Hill said McConnell has been more impressive since then.
"What he does in practice now overshadows anything he's done in the past," Hill said. "He's a great, great guard. I think this year will be great for him. He can learn under coach (Sean Miller) and with the older guys that we have here."
Brase's foot in NBA door
After three years of coaching under Russ Pennell at UA and Grand Canyon, former UA player and coach Matt Brase has worked his way into the NBA with the Houston Rockets organization.
Brase will spend this season on the bench of the Rockets' D-League affiliate in Hidalgo, Texas, after serving in an operational role for the Rockets last season.
While he is Lute Olson's grandson, Brase landed in Texas with the help of other connections. He first handled some advance scouting duties for the San Antonio Spurs while an assistant coach at Grand Canyon. That job came about when former UA teammate Bret Brielmaier, a video coordinator with the Spurs, asked Brase to scout some teams playing in Phoenix whom the Spurs would play next.
Then, before last season, Brase caught on with Houston after a friend from UA learned that her best friend's brother was leaving an operational role with Houston - and Brase was recommended to replace him.
"You try whatever you can to get in and you never know what will work," Brase said.
Brase may reunite this season with former UA guard Kyle Fogg, who was cut by the Rockets last week. Having coached Fogg as an assistant under Pennell in 2008-09, Brase said he was part of a panel that decided to sign Fogg as a free agent last summer.
Red-Blue to be streamed
The Red-Blue Game will be streamed live and free Sunday via Pac-12.com, since the conference now owns broadcast rights for all member school events.
The webcast will begin at 2 p.m., after which UA will have highlight videos, introductions, an induction of Andre Iguodala into the Ring of Honor and a dunk contest.
The game is scheduled to tip off at about 2:20 p.m., and will consist of two 12-minute halves. At halftime, UA will recognize the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Final Four team, which will be introduced before the game.
• What: Red-Blue Game
• Where: McKale Center
• When: Sunday, 2 p.m
• Online: www.pac-12.com