As Turner sits, Johnson fills in

Freshman Nick Johnson took over at point guard for a while Sunday. "For (Johnson) to play point guard for the first time at Arizona under those conditions, a lot of other guys would have crumbled," coach Sean Miller said. "He didn't."


Josiah Turner, the Arizona Wildcats' top-rated incoming freshman, was benched Sunday, one game after being stripped of his starting job for being late to a shoot-around.

Sean Miller said Sunday's benching was a coach's decision, not the result of a suspension or form of disciplinary action.

"No coach is worth his salt if you're not playing the players that are really practicing hard and doing what they're supposed to," Miller said. "It's very difficult to build a program and try to do the things that we hope to do when that's not in place."

Turner - rated in high school as the nation's second-best point guard prospect by - was not one of the players made available by Arizona's sports information department after the 73-63 win against Ball State at McKale Center.

Miller painted an image of a 19-year-old struggling to adjust to college athletics.

"It's not like he's a bad kid - he's a great kid," Miller said. "But he's just trying to find his way from where he left high school as a true freshman to the adjustment of being in college, on and off the court. Making good decisions. Working hard every day.

"Sometimes, especially very, very, early in someone's career, if they don't play, it's a feeling they haven't had before.

"I hope we can get him in the fold, and he can develop."

Turner spent the game wearing a warmup over his jersey.

"Everybody anoints young players as, 'He'll be in college for a year or two,' " Miller said. "Each one of these guys has their own process to work through.

"We care a lot about Josiah. We're trying to help him.

"Hopefully he can help himself and keep working, and get back out there."

The Wildcats used a novel solution to replace him.

Fellow freshman Nick Johnson, who never played point guard in high school, played both guard spots against the Cardinals.

"I want to be on the court and help my team," Johnson said.

Johnson, who scored nine points and had one assist in 24 minutes, said he asked Miller if he could try both positions. Johnson said he stressed to Miller he could handle the responsibility.

Johnson joked that he didn't have any bad point guard habits because he hadn't played the position outside of a few AAU games, which "really doesn't count" anyway.

"Tempo" was the biggest adjustment, he said, adding that players "are a lot faster, a lot stronger" than AAU ball.

"Nick is a player - he's just a really good player," Miller said. "Good players have a unique way of adapting to the situation you put them in. That's exactly what he did."

Asked if Johnson's point guard minutes would become permanent, Miller said only that "right now, that's where we're at," hinting that it would depend on Turner's reaction moving forward.

"For (Johnson) to play point guard for the first time at Arizona under those conditions, a lot of other guys would have crumbled," he said. "He didn't."

Miller pointed to one positive example for Turner: Sidiki Johnson.

The freshman forward had played only one minute all season after being deemed unprepared by the coach.

On Sunday, Sidiki Johnson was sent in to guard Ball State forward Jarrod Jones, and scored one point and grabbed two rebounds in four minutes.

Miller said he "went through the same thing with" Sidiki Johnson that he is experiencing with Turner, and that he rewarded the big man with playing time after seeing changes in his behavior.

"Sidiki's practiced harder; he's being responsible," Miller said. "I think he's learning what college is all about."

Solomon Hill was impressed by the forward.

"It should boost his morale," Hill said. "I think he should be ready for practice. He should be up for the challenge."