The Arizona Wildcats' crowded frontcourt shook out another player Wednesday, when popular reserve forward Angelo Chol opted to transfer after two seasons.
An athletic 6-foot-9 native of Sudan, Chol played a reduced role last season after Arizona brought in three high school All-America frontcourt players. And, even though freshman forward Grant Jerrett decided to leave for professional basketball last month, Chol's playing time prospects appeared just as difficult next season because of highly touted newcomers Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
"After much consideration and several conversations with both coach (Sean) Miller and my family, I have decided to transfer to another university," Chol said in a UA statement. "I believe this change will put me in a better situation to earn more playing time and a starting role elsewhere. I have enjoyed my time in Tucson and want to thank my teammates, coaching staff and the fans for their support."
Chol's mentor and coach at San Diego Hoover High School, Ollie Goulston, said it was a decision Chol had been wrestling with for a while.
"He had a lot of sleepless nights," Goulston said. "But at the end of the day he wanted a bigger role in a situation where minutes were available.
"He liked Arizona, being a part of the team, the coaching staff, and coach Miller, but he wanted the opportunity to play a greater role. You've gotta be realistic. It was a numbers game."
Chol averaged 12.2 minutes per game as a freshman in 2011-12, but just 8.5 minutes on average last season. He did not play at all in seven games.
If Jerrett had returned, Goulston said, Chol might have considered redshirting next season. But once Jerrett left, Goulston said Chol was asked about playing again next season and began wondering if he would face a similar situation.
The UA added Gordon, a McDonald's All-American, last month.
In addition, Goulston said, there was no telling what UA's roster would look like in 2014-15 if Chol came out of a redshirt season then. The Wildcats could lose several players to the 2014 NBA Draft, or none.
"Sometimes you've gotta look at things realistically and logically," Goulston said. "Angelo had to look at goals: Do you want to go through college and be a role player? Maybe his senior year he starts, but who knows?"
Goulston said San Diego State was among Chol's possible destinations but that the two have not discussed options yet. Wherever he lands, though, Miller indicated that good things are ahead.
"I wish Angelo much success in his future," Miller said in UA's statement. "I believe that Angelo's best days as a basketball player are ahead of him. He did a tremendous job in his two years in our program both on the court and in the classroom. He is one of the finest people and nicest kids that I have ever coached."
While Goulston said there were no hard feelings with Miller or the UA staff, he expressed frustration that Chol was most effective when he played significant minutes.
Chol's best game of last season came when Jerrett was out with a foot injury Feb. 6 against Stanford. Chol had six points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes against the Cardinal, while also playing well defensively.
"The stat sheet doesn't really reveal the impact he had," Miller said after the Stanford game. "He defended players who are very difficult to defend and if he didn't do it, it was 'game over' because we didn't have anybody else."
Chol also had eight points and four rebounds when he was given 20 minutes in UA's loss at Colorado on Feb. 14, but his minutes tailed off over the last month of the season. He saw only two minutes of action during the Pac-12 tournament and did not play at all in UA's Sweet 16 loss to Ohio State.
"When Angelo played 20 or more minutes, he was pretty productive," Goulston said. "He's not built to play three or four minutes a game because he's a guy who wrestles with his confidence. It's like a running back who needs a lot of carries."
Chol maintained a positive outlook near the end of the season, saying during the NCAA tournament he wanted to do what was best for the team.
"He's a great kid," Goulston said. "Ultimately, he can be a victim of that. You say, 'Oh, we're not going to worry about him.' He has a great attitude and is focused on the right things."
Miller also routinely praised Chol for his attitude and work ethic, saying during the 2011-12 season that Chol was "as driven as any (basketball player) that I've been around especially as a freshman."
Even though Chol never permanently stuck in UA's playing rotation, Goulston said both he and Chol thought highly of Miller.
"I do think Sean's a very good coach and if I had another recruit, I wouldn't think twice about sending him there," Goulston said.
"I don't think anybody was lied to or anything like that. … It was a tough deal all the way around but other than maybe not playing as much as he wanted there's been no regrets at Arizona. You have to decide what you want and Angelo wants to get on the floor more consistently."
On StarNet: Find photos of forward Angelo Chol in action at azstarnet.com/gallery
Contact Bruce Pascoe at 573-4145 or email@example.com. On Twitter @brucepascoe