Without a go-to player yet or any proven shooters, the Arizona Wildcats may not have much of an offensive identity entering the season.
But Sean Miller has another vision of what they can become immediately.
“We have a real upside on defense,” Miller said Thursday, after podium Pac-12 media day interviews ended. “I would say our talent is more on that side. Not that we can’t score. We have good offensive players. But we have size and length and we also have some really good quickness and have some unique defenders.
“Aaron Gordon can guard a variety of players his size. T.J. McConnell at the guard position is prolific in stealing the ball and can really put pressure on the other team, and Nick Johnson, with the speed that he has and how he’s progressed a lot last year. … That’s something we talk a lot about. I think for our team to accomplish some very lofty goals you would have to point to us becoming a great defensive team.”
“We do have some characteristics to play defense, to be able to rebound, have a true center who’s mobile and a couple of really long athletic guys in the backcourt as well as with Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson). Even a guy like Jordin Mayes, he’s seen a lot of things. He’s someone from a defensive perspective who knows how to do it.”
Miller also noted that 6-foot-8 Aaron Gordon even has the ability to guard players on the perimeter, which brings us to our next item...
After Pac-12 coaches were done raving about Aaron Gordon on the podium, Miller did the same in a small-group interview.
He was asked if he’d seen anybody with Gordon’s motor.
“Not even close,” Miller said. “Solomon Hill as a senior was as focused and highly motivated and as competitive as I’ve ever seen. But I’ve never seen anybody like Aaron Gordon. It’s not just his motor. It’s his approach to every single thing that he does basketball-wise. He’s full throttle from opening drill to the last one every single day.
“It’s so contagious. When you’re around him, and competing against him, you have to be ready to go because he’s always ready and he’s also very talented.
“So Brandon Ashley and him compete against each other every day and there’s no doubt they make each other better. Part of Aaron’s disposition has made Brandon better. That competitive environment, you can really see it with those two guys.”
There was more.
“He’s almost like a senior in college. He’s focused. He’s very intelligent. He’s really a fantastic person to the core. He’s about the right things. He’s the last to leave and the first to get there. It’s really hard to say where a guy like that can be five years from now because of how hard he works, how smart he is and also how blessed he is. Just from a physical perspective – size, speed, being able to jump -- he’s just got great ability.”
Our full coverage from Pac-12 media day: A main story on expectations for the Wildcats, a sidebar on Pac-12 teams' conditioning efforts, and a seen-and-heard notebook. Jon Gold also chatted with Stanford's Dwight Powell for his blog while Miller gave some news updates on the previous post of this blog.
Other links of possible interest from around Pac-12 country:
-- Utah native C.J. Wilcox is hoping to go out with a bang at Washington.
-- Picked a distant 12th, WSU can have a chip on its shoulder.
-- Pac-12 coaches say the league has caught up in recruiting to the early departures that dragged it down in recent seasons.
-- Jabari, er, Justin Cobbs may be the real key to Cal's success this season.
-- Lorenzo Romar says he can see why someone would pick the Huskies eighth.
-- USC's Andy Enfield admitted that he told his players to "go to UCLA" if they wanted to play slow.
-- Herb Sendek wonders if the new rules might help Jahii Carson get to the line even more than he already does.
-- Craig Robinson is looking for defense in Corvallis.
Sounds like Mitch McGary will be ready for Michigan's Dec. 14 date with Arizona.
Reminder to anyone interesting in posting their Pac-12 picks by Sunday, either at the end of my prediction thread or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @brucepascoe. We'll tally up the results in March.