Greg Hansen: Depth, shooters in short supply

2011-12-19T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Depth, shooters in short supplyGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 19, 2011 12:00 am  • 

SEATTLE - The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth, and other items admissible as can-you-believe-Arizona-really trailed-Gonzaga 14-0 news:

Item I: When Sean Miller stepped into a small utility room in the basement of Key Arena on Saturday afternoon, the most revealing thing he said was, "Sam Dower is really good; I'd love to have him."

Sam Dower? A 6-foot 9-inch sophomore sub who averages 16 minutes per game? When did Arizona last covet someone's "other guys?"

But that's the essence of Arizona's transition from Lute Olson to Miller. It takes years to have someone as skilled as Sam Dower sitting on your bench.

The Wildcats used to have it like that, with Sean Rooks, Wayne Womack, Ricky Anderson, Jason Terry and Andre Iguodala, among others, spending an apprenticeship on the bench as the program overflowed with talent.

On Saturday, Gonzaga didn't even need Dower until it had that 14-0 lead, inserting him in brief stretches, 16 minutes total. He scored 10 points, including two key baskets down the stretch to deter an Arizona rally.

Gonzaga found Dower in Osseo, Minn., a late bloomer who attracted middling scholarship interest from Minnesota, Iowa and George Mason. When he chose the Zags in September 2008, it did not generate much news.

If Dower played at Arizona, he would be all but worn out, playing 30 minutes a game, a double-figure scorer, the key element missing from Miller's third UA team.

And here's the kicker: Gonzaga found an available scholarship for Dower only after a 6-8 prospect from Kalispell, Mont., backed out of his commitment, electing to play football at Arizona State. That would be Sun Devil QB Brock Osweiler.

Small world, huh?

Item II: Arizona's leading scorer is senior guard Kyle Fogg, who is averaging 12.1 points. Do you realize the significance of that total?

In the last 28 years, Arizona has always had someone score more than that. The lowest leading scorer in the last eight seasons is Derrick Williams at 15.7 in 2009-10, Miller's first UA season. It was the only time Arizona hasn't gone to the NCAA tournament since 1984.

Arizona has never lacked for shooters. Sometimes it had an embarrassment of riches, with so many potential double-figure scorers, so much talent on the bench, that it became commonplace.

On Saturday, Gonzaga coach Mark Few said he thought it would take Miller "six years" to rebuild Arizona. In that perspective, the Wildcats are far ahead of schedule.

Few, who is one of the better X-and-O schemers in college basketball, had fully and correctly evaluated Arizona's lack of shooting prowess. In effect, he was willing to give the UA uncontested shots from three-point distance to make sure that Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill didn't get free inside.

"If I press pause on the film, what you do as a coach is say, 'OK, good shot? Bad shot? It was (always) a wide-open shot,'" Miller said after the game. "In many ways, Gonzaga chose for those shots to be wide open. And I think they were probably saying to themselves, 'If a couple go in, then we'll adjust and, if not, that will be to our advantage.' And they didn't."

Kevin Parrom once spurred the UA defensive motto "No Easy Buckets." But now it has come full circle. It is the Wildcats who can't get an easy bucket.

Item III: During Arizona's attempted comeback Saturday, freshman point guard Josiah Turner put up three open three-point attempts in a flurry. He made one.

For the year, Turner is 3 for 17 from that range, or 17.6 percent. The Zags, and others down the line, will step back and give Turner that shot.

During his high school and AAU days, Turner wasn't much different from former UA point guard Mustafa Shakur. Turner would dribble until he found an opening, penetrate and shoot about 75 percent of his shots as layups, maybe 85 percent. He never really had to develop a jumper.

Shakur arrived at Arizona with much the same body size he had as a 15-year-old, when he dominated Philadelphia-area high school games by taking opposing defenders to the bucket, scoring over them with ease.

When Shakur became a college player, it was a shock to watch him take a jumper. He was a wreck. Had it been baseball, Shakur would've been shipped to a minor-league hitting instructor to re-learn his batting stroke. Had it been golf, a swing coach would've changed his mechanics.

But Turner, like Shakur, is what he is. Odds are strong that Turner's not suddenly going to light it up from downtown.

The only star-level Pac-12 player I ever saw overcome bad shooting skills was Oregon State's Gary Payton, who dribbled, shot layups and played defense as a freshman and then, after much diligence in the offseason, became such a capable shooter that he became the league's best player in 1990.

Don't expect that to happen with Turner. If he is at Arizona long enough to learn how to shoot a jumper, it will be a surprise.

Item last: In mid-December 2010, Arizona was hammered on a neutral court by BYU 87-65. It trailed by 19 at halftime. Sound familiar?

The Wildcats then won 15 of 17, most of it against a dreadful Pac-10 schedule.

Déjà vu anyone? If the UA now wins 10 straight, which is a reasonably good possibility, the loss in Seattle will be forgotten as the loss in Salt Lake City was a year ago.

Contact columnist Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4362.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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