This used to be the time of year when the Arizona Wildcats would discover which players worked their way into shape and which worked their way out during the offseason.
Like Solomon Hill’s heavy look before his sophomore year (and his buffed look before his senior year). Or Kyle Fogg’s 40,000-shot summer of 2011.
But those days are over. Because there really isn’t an offseason anymore.
NCAA rules that allow coaches to work out their players up to two hours a week during summer sessions mean players never stray out of coaches' sight for more than a few weeks at a time.
“Because we have access to these guys in the summer months, we know these guys,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “To me it benefits all parts, our program and next year’s team. We’ve had five or six good weeks here.”
The rule was changed last season, when UA would have been practicing anyway because of its Bahamas exhibition trip, so this is the first summer that the Wildcats have relied exclusively on the new practice windows.
“It’s a fantastic rule because it allows our players to take a class or two, move toward graduation and at the same time, instead of us ignoring or not be able to help them, we now have access to making them better players and build strong relationships and trust," Miller said. "I feel that we as a staff have a great pulse of what we have.”
UA had some of its players in town for both summer sessions and its whole team for the second summer session that ends this week. Typically, Miller said, they have broken up the two-hour maximum by holding three 40-minute workouts a week or two one-hour sessions.
The Wildcats wrapped up their summer workouts this week and will now scatter until fall classes begin on Aug. 26.
Of course, one physical challenge never really goes away: That is getting freshmen used to conditioning and weight room work.
Miller said even the highly regarded, and solidly built, Aaron Gordon has found the weight-room regimen is “new to him” while putting weight of any type on 6-foot-5 freshman Elliott Pitts has been a necessity.
Pitts arrived in Tucson at about 170 pounds in June but Miller said he’s already up to about 180.
Miller said Pitts is benefiting by having played for a strong high school program (De La Salle in Concord, Calif.) but said he still has plenty of work to do.
“He’s really ready for college,” Miller said. “At the same time Elliott could be a senior in high school. He’s young and he’s gained a lot of strength and weight. … I think he appreciates being here at Arizona.
“He’s going to be a very good contributor. When that time comes from him -- it’ll probably be a little bit later than sooner -- but as he continues to grow I love his competitiveness. He has a high skill level and I really believe in what he can do for our program.”
Junior Matt Korcheck was already known as a physical player at Cochise College even before he redshirted last year and picked up the system at Arizona.
Now the Wildcats can see Korcheck’s style will carry over in games.
“With Matt’s temperament and how he plays the game, he could have the perfect mindset for the role we have in mind with him,” Miller said. “That is to come off the bench, play a physical brand of basketball, rebound and defend and know what we’re doing at all times and add to that depth that all good teams need to have.”
SI's Andy Glockner says T.J. McConnell is the Pac-12's player to watch in his look at the conference.
Meanwhile, ESPN's Andy Katz says Nick Johnson is the Wildcats' most important player.
Here's a national wire perspective on UA after Miller's news conference Tuesday.