HANSEN

Greg Hansen: A young Coach K? Miller is inspiring

2013-01-21T00:00:00Z 2013-01-21T07:30:40Z Greg Hansen: A young Coach K? Miller is inspiringGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible as college hoops news:

• Coach Sean Miller's postgame victory speech in the UA locker room required a brief 2 minutes 28 seconds Saturday at Arizona State. It was the quintessential Miller: direct, motivational, insightful and hard-nosed. He didn't waste a syllable.

If you watch it (it's available on YouTube), you can understand why Miller is able to recruit successfully at the elite level. He is so good on his feet, so engaging; there's nothing phony about his delivery or makeup.

At one point, addressing his freshmen, Miller says, "It's like, wow, is it this hard on the road? Yes, but it's also that rewarding."

Later, acknowledging Solomon Hill's big-game nature, the coach says "in the moments of truth, who's going to win and who's going to lose, you answered the bell."

Classic. Miller, 44, is the closest thing to a young Mike Krzyzewski in college basketball.

"Bring the muscle," Miller told his Wildcats after their 71-54 win. "Bring the muscle in big games. We were the tougher team, we were the harder-playing team."

• Oregon's emergence as an NCAA tournament team and serious Pac-12 title contender is regrettable for one reason: The unbalanced conference schedule is so quirky that the Ducks only play Arizona and UCLA once. And they've already won those games.

It's not inconceivable that Oregon could go on a 16-2 run and win the title comfortably.

The Ducks are good because third-year coach Dana Altman was resourceful in patching together a team of transfers, buying time while his younger recruiting classes mature.

Can you imagine, for example, if ASU's Herb Sendek had been able to add 6-foot-11-inch Tony Woods, a Wake Forest transfer who turns 23 on Thursday? Or 6-8 power forward Arsalan Kazemi, a transfer from Rice, who turns 23 in April? They are difference-makers for the Ducks.

In Oregon last week, Miller told me that the Ducks are good because "they're big and old." That's an apt description of Woods and Kazemi, who, like Arizona senior transfer Mark Lyons, are as important as any first-year player in the league, including UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad.

Kazemi has 1,117 rebounds in his college career. How good is that? Arizona's career leader, Al Fleming had 1,190. No other UA player ever amassed as many rebounds as the Oregon senior.

Woods is one of those under-the-radar players who emerges as a senior to become an All-Pac-12 player. He reminds me of ex-Washington State guard Taylor Rochestie and former Sun Devil big man Chad Prewitt, whose age and experience came to fruition in their final years of eligibility.

The Ducks probably don't have a future NBA player on their roster, and they don't look like anyone's Final Four contender, but in this conference, this year, they could win it all.

• Before Miller left his team's locker room Saturday, he made a point to praise the practice work of redshirt point guard T. J. McConnell and redshirt power forward Matt Korcheck.

They are reinforcements-in-waiting, comfort that the graduation losses of Hill and Lyons won't cripple Arizona in 2013-14. Moreover, McConnell's background at Duquesne suggests that the Point Guard U tradition will be a seamless handoff from Lyons, who has been better than advertised.

Lyons, who would be a clear All-Pac-12 player if the 10-man team were selected today, currently has career highs in field-goal percentage (.437), free throw percentage (.882) and points per game (15.2).

In Tempe a year ago, Arizona point guard Josiah Turner shot 1 for 6 from the field and scored three points. Invisible. No wonder, after 17 games, the Wildcats have gone from last year's 12-5 to this year's 16-1.

• Miller's blueprint is so far-reaching (such as having McConnell and Korcheck in stock) that his recruiting sessions with 7-foot Kameron Rooks left Rooks feeling he would sit on the bench at Arizona for an extended period.

Former Arizona All-Pac-10 center Sean Rooks told the Arizona Republic his son signed with Cal essentially because there was no room for him on the UA roster.

"Arizona wanted to put my son on a three-, four-year waiting list," Rooks said. "Who goes to college to sit on the bench for three or four years?"

Rooks should know the drill. He was forced to redshirt as a UA freshman, 1987-88, sitting behind Tom Tolbert, Anthony Cook and Joe Turner.

• Former Arizona point guard MoMo Jones has more than made the best of his move to Iona. Through Saturday he was fourth in the NCAA in scoring, at 22.3 points per game, and a leading contender to be the MAAC Player of the Year.

How good is 22.3 points per game? At Arizona, only Khalid Reeves in 1994 had a higher average (24.2) dating to the UA's days in the WAC.

Jones doesn't project as an NBA prospect, but he shouldn't be waiting long to get a six-figure deal in Europe. His former UA teammate, Brendon Lavender, who was never a full-scale starter in college basketball, is averaging 23 minutes and 5.5 points a game for the White Eagles in Sweden's top EuroLeague division.

But, of course, you might have to spend your winters in Stockholm, as Lavender is. Tuesday's predicted high temperature there is 17.

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