Trying to determine Arizona's best rotation, Sean Miller said after the Wildcats' 60-51 exhibition win over Humboldt State, is like "a jigsaw puzzle you work through."
Except in this puzzle, some of the pieces may not fit at all.
Miller said repeatedly after the game that trimming down his rotation might help create more time and development opportunity for freshmen such as Angelo Chol and Nick Johnson.
And he hasn't even plugged in Kevin Parrom to the rotation yet.
"Part of what's going to make us better is to play certain players more, certain players not at all and maybe make sure that we have the right players at the right positions," Miller said. With the two exhibitions and 15 practices, he said, "I think we as a staff have a much clearer direction on what we have to do to be successful."
Miller also said this:
"The other point is I'm not so sure playing 10 guys is the answer," he said. "One example: Nick Johnson. I love the way Nick's playing the game and there's only so much you can do through 14 practices with two of these games. But I know this: giving him a bigger role is going to help our team.
"Letting Angelo play some five is going to help our team. Maybe not playing one player who is playing now -- at all -- gives those guys a bigger role. So we're working ourselves through it. We have a competitive environment in practice and it's going to be interesting to see how it will all shake out. "
Forward Solomon Hill said he thought Miller was still sorting his way through the potential rotations.
"I think he's still in a position where he wants to see more guys and see if they're worth playing," Hill said.
True, but Miller disagreed when asked if he is looking for a go-to player.
"The coach doesn't anoint the go-to guy, the player becomes the go-to guy," Miller said. "I never said to Derrick and the team, `Let's make sure Derrick gets 20' -- he just got 20.
"For us, we're in search of balance. In certain situations Jesse Perry is the guy. In other situations, so is Solomon. We have freshmen in Nick and Josiah (Turner), I thought they combined for some big plays. You can see that as we get better as a team getting the ball in their hands could be a good thing."
Angelo Chol arrived at UA with the reputation of being a shot-blocker with a developing face-up game that suggested he might even be able to play small forward in the future.
Yet, after one night, he may have earned significant minutes at center. Chol had five points and three rebounds in 13 minutes, helping the Wildcats pull away for good with four minutes left in the game when he scored on two consecutive UA possessions.
"It's hard to predetermine what position they'll be most comfortable with right away," Miller said. "Derrick, at the five, took advantage of mismatches. I believe that Angelo will develop through the year but to me he's the most comfortable playing the five.
"That doesn't mean in Angelo's future that he won't play other positions. It's not necessarily what position you play; it's how comfortable you are out on the court. For our team, as he gets more comfortable and more productive sometimes that now allows him to play that other position. But we first have to get him more comfortable. Watching him in practice and especially in the game tonight, it realty jumped out at me that he can help at that position."
Once again, Miller was tempted to ponder how much better off the Wildcats would be with Kevin Parrom back, but said he wouldn't go down that road too much in the future.
"Having Kevin healthy, with some of the things you've watched, we have a huge solution," Miller said. With Parrom "we're bigger and more physical. We have a 40-percent shooter, somebody who is great in transition, but without him right now, where we're at, that really knocks us back.
"The silver lining, hopefully, is that we can get Kevin back. While he's out some of these other guys have an opportunity to get better."
Miller said Jesse Perry missed some time over the weekend with a sore shoulder.
"I attribute his slow start to missing a couple of practices," Miller said. "But one thing about Jesse: He's a warrior and you know what you're going to get with him. And I do think he'll grow and be better with the role that he has now as the season goes on.
"Kyle, Solomon and Jesse, because of their experience and age they have to be really solid. I don't know tonight if I would put them in that category. I'm sure they would admit that."
Miller said the Wildcats beat Utah by only about five points in the private scrimmage held at McKale Center last October (Fogg said UA lost the scrimmage) despite the fact that the Utes were without two key post players.
Utah wound up finishing 13-18 and firing coach Jim Boylen.
"If you look at Utah's season, it's almost hard to believe that a team with 30 wins played Utah to an even match," Miller said.
"If we get credit for one thing last season, we just got better by leaps and bounds. I hope we can do that again. For us, it's not about panic as much as being very realistic that, `Here's our starting point and here are the things we need to do to get better."
Here's the http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/ariz/sports/m-baskbl/auto_pdf/2011-12/box_score/stats_20111102aaa.pdf" target="_blank">official boxscore from tonight's game and the play-by-play http://stats.statbroadcast.com/statmonitr/?id=3017" target= "_blank">can be found here.
Our print edition coverage, if you missed any of it: A http://azstarnet.com/sports/basketball/college/wildcats/arizona-humboldt-state-cats-beat-div-ii-foe-but-it/article_5c0fa6ab-1578-565c-9b9a-88b9561740b0.html" target="_blank">game story focusing on Miller's sense of urgency, Greg Hansen's http://azstarnet.com/sports/football/greg-hansen-for-miller-ua-needs-real-leader-to-step/article_c5326c9c-2caa-56c4-8bd1-0621205edd40.html" target="_blank">column, and http://azstarnet.com/sports/basketball/college/wildcats/arizona-basketball-notebook-chol-bright-spot-on-inconsistent-night/article_fc4e7b03-317e-5772-bc57-416143a55ef7.html" target="_blank">sidebar on Angelo Chol.