UA HOOPS

Arizona basketball: Miller: UA might not utilize all 13 spots

2013-05-18T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:37:48Z Arizona basketball: Miller: UA might not utilize all 13 spotsBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Since Sean Miller last held a news conference back in March, the Arizona Wildcats have made 10 player personnel moves, lost an associate head coach and hired a former star as an assistant head coach.

Oh yeah, there was that Pac-12 officials controversy, too.

Miller declined to touch on that last item in his end-of-spring news conference Friday, but otherwise discussed the return of Damon Stoudamire as an assistant coach, the addition of Zach Peters as a transfer from Kansas and several other topics.

He also talked a lot about roster management, saying the Wildcats won't necessarily fill all 13 scholarship spots available next season. UA's talent began spilling over this spring in the form of departures by Grant Jerrett (pro basketball) and Angelo Chol (San Diego State).

"Just because you have the number 13, I don't know if that's as important as it once was," Miller said. "To me it's more intelligent that anyone you add to your program has to be a contributor and there has to be a reason you do it. You don't want to just fill in the scholarship void to add depth. That's not going to work because that person you're talking about will end up leaving for sure."

Overall, Arizona lost seven players, counting walk-ons, since the end of last season, including the early departures of Chol and Jerrett, while adding three (five-star freshman Aaron Gordon, walk-on freshman Eric Conklin and Peters). Then there was Stoudamire effectively replacing James Whitford, who became the head coach at Ball State last month.

"I'm happy to be back," said Stoudamire, who spent the past two seasons on Josh Pastner's Memphis staff. "It's going to be a great situation.

"Walking through the halls made me numb. I've got butterflies but for different reasons, not as a player but as a coach."

Here were some of Miller's comments on Stoudamire and other current topics:

On Stoudamire

"Obviously, Damon was a great player and a difference maker in our program's history, and his pro career speaks even louder with the success he's had. But from my perspective it's about building the best program at the University of Arizona. And if you're looking to hire a coach, there are a lot of qualities you look for that have nothing to do with how good a player you were.

"Some of the great players weren't good coaches; some of the best coaches in the game weren't very good players.

"But no matter who I've talked to, the words that keep coming to mind is he has an incredible burning desire and love for the game of basketball as a player and as a coach."

On Jerrett's decision to turn professional

"Initially, I was surprised, but that's all part of it when you recruit a very talented young player. Each of those guys has their own goals, and information that is out there is sometimes more or less relevant to them. In Grant's perspective, he felt he was ready to make that climb to be an NBA player. I have no doubt he has the talent to do it. … My goal now is for him to become the highest pick that he possibly can become. He was invited to Chicago, which is a great sign, and from all indications he's playing well there."

On whether he was surprised to see Chol transfer to San Diego State

"Not really. I would like to keep all of our guys here for four years. That's the goal when we recruit them, to keep them with us as long as we can unless they're a first-round (NBA draft) pick.

"But Angelo, in the first two years, didn't play a whole lot, and as he looked forward the future he still saw himself in a crowd. He's going to a program where maybe he has an opportunity to start and play the whole game."

On Peters' health prospects after multiple concussions before and during his short Kansas career

"We looked into it very deep. Zach and his family made sure we had all the information and his family is on top of it. Zach has the opportunity to go a full year without having another concussion. … Hopefully, he can move forward and have a healthy and productive career. He's certainly talented enough and there's no reason for us to believe that it can't happen.

"I'm sure we'll be on top of (his health) … but he's been thoroughly checked out at Kansas and a second time when he went home. He's really no different; he just has a history of concussions, and with that we will proceed not necessarily with caution but how we're supposed to.

On whether Peters can receive a waiver to play immediately next season

(Note: Peters must be found to have left Kansas for reasons out of his control, or he'll have to sit out the standard redshirt year for transfers.)

"That's not for us to decide but I certainly think he has a case. We'll take it through the proper channels, but I do think there's a chance."

On whether he's comfortable with the Pac-12 officiating situation

(Note: Officials coordinator Ed Rush resigned in a the wake of allegations he improperly prodded officials to more closely monitor Miller and other coaches. An outside investigation is ongoing.)

"I can't comment on the investigation, but one of the things I can comment on is I haven't had the opportunity to express my gratitude at the very highest level for the support I've gotten from (UA president) Dr. (Ann Weaver) Hart and (athletic director) Greg Byrne. As a basketball coach who gets in a situation like this, not every place would have the incredible support I've been fortunate to have. It's probably the most meaningful thing that happened to me since I've been the head coach at Arizona."

On StarNet: See photos of Sean Miller, Damon Stoudamire and Lute Olson from Friday's Arizona basketball news conference at azstarnet.com/gallery

On StarNet: Check out video of Damon Stoudamire's playing days at the UA at azstarnet.com/video

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