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ARIZONA MEN’S BASKETBALL

Former Arizona Wildcat Daniel Batcho finds a home with Texas Tech

Former UA Wildcat Daniel Batcho, right, is averaging 9.3 points per game for Texas Tech this season.

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Someday, Daniel Batcho’s Arizona basketball career could become the answer to a trivia question. Or maybe it already is.

The question: Where did the forward from France completely disappear as a freshman during the COVID-19 season of 2020-21 before he became a standout for a Top-25 program at Texas Tech, as evidenced by the team-high 17 points he scored Monday in a Maui Invitational first-round game against Creighton?

Yes, it was Arizona, even if it was hard to tell. Part of then-coach Sean Miller’s European recruiting wave in the spring of 2020, which also brought Kerr Kriisa and Azuolas Tubelis to Tucson, Batcho suffered a preseason knee injury that kept him out until February 2021.

In January 2021, he was also kept away from the Wildcats for two weeks because of what Miller called a non-COVID illness and, even when he was cleared to play in early February, Miller did not turn to him.

“He doesn’t know our plays,” Miller said then. “He just hasn’t been in practice long enough. He’s just missed too much time.”

Batcho said after Monday’s game that he was not sick at Arizona, only injured. Whatever the case, he never played a single game for the Wildcats.

After Miller was fired in April 2021 — but just before Tommy Lloyd was hired to replace him — Batcho entered the transfer portal. He then carved out a reserve role at Texas Tech last season and, this season, has started the Red Raiders’ first four games.

When asked what has made the biggest difference in his jump from Arizona to Texas Tech, Batcho had a short answer.

“They really believed in me,” Batcho said. “They are pushing me.”

After Texas Tech lost 76-65 to Creighton on Monday, Batcho appeared less likely to reunite with Arizona on the court in the Maui field, but he said he did catch up during the weekend with UA guard Adama Bal, a friend from their native France. Bal committed to the Wildcats under Lloyd in May 2021, just a month after Batcho decided to leave.

SDSU to Pac-12? Dutcher won’t bite

What was a near-annual rivalry between Arizona and San Diego State under Miller and former coach San Diego State coach Steve Fisher has fizzed out in recent seasons.

It could be automatically revived if the Aztecs are invited to the Pac-12 as a result of USC and UCLA’s departure, but SDSU coach Brian Dutcher didn’t want to speculate about realignment possibilities.

“That’s dealt with at such an administrative level that I don’t talk about it, I don’t ask about it,” Dutcher said. “I’m just so focused on trying to help us win in the Mountain West right now. Whatever the future holds, it holds.

“I’ve always been a guy that can adjust whatever it is — whether it’s NIL, transfer portal, I’ve adjusted. I’ve been doing this a long time. So if it’s another conference or not another conference, I’ll adjust to it when it happens.”

Boswell second in hula dance

Possibly thanks to a little help from his Samoan roots, Arizona freshman guard Kylan Boswell finished second in the Maui Invitational hula contest at a banquet Sunday night.

Chosen to be Arizona’s representative on a lawn stage at the Hyatt Regency Maui, Boswell finished behind only Barry Dunning of Arkansas.

Lloyd started in construction

Following the hula dance, the eight participating head coaches took the stage in front of fans to answer a little questioning from ESPN’s Jay Bilas.

Among other things, Lloyd revealed that his first job was as a construction laborer (with his father), his first car was a 1987 Toyota Tercel hatchback and that he met his wife at “one of those college functions where you’re playing cards.”

When asked the toughest place to take a team to, Lloyd said, “we ran into a buzzsaw at Tennessee last year,” referring to UA’s first defeat of last season.

Estonian birthday wish

Lloyd took advantage of his globalized roster to put a new twist on a celebration of UA president Robert Robbins’ birthday at a booster gathering over the weekend.

According to a UA spokesman, Lloyd asked Robbins which language he wanted happy birthday sung to him. Robbins chose Estonian, prompting guard Kerr Kriisa and big man Henri Veesaar to take the microphone and sing.

Top-10 Maui matchup set

After No. 10 Creighton beat No. 21 Texas Tech in the Maui Invitational’s first game, No. 9 Arkansas beat Louisville 80-54 to set up a Top-10 showdown between the Bluejays and Razorbacks in the first semifinal Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPN).

Arkansas shot 56.9% from the floor and held Louisville to just 36.4%, but Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman was already bracing for a tougher game Tuesday.

“We knew coming into this tournament we were going to have some challenging games,” Musselman said. “Obviously, this is going to be one of them.”

Arizona remains at No. 14

Arizona stayed at No. 14 in the Associated Press Top-25 poll Monday after beating Utah Tech last week.

While nine teams in last week’s AP Top 25 suffered losses, Gonzaga, Baylor and Duke all stayed ahead of Arizona. Virginia moved ahead of the Wildcats (16th to fifth), but Kentucky (fourth to 15th) dropped below UA.

ASU sweeps Pac-12 awards

After helping the Sun Devils to the championship of the Legends Classic last week, ASU’s Desmond Cambridge was named Pac-12 Player of the Week and Austin Nunez was named Freshman of the Week.

Cambridge averaged 15.0 points on 50% shooting in Legends Classic wins over VCU and Michigan, picking up the event’s MVP honors, while Nunez averaged 12.5 points off the bench and made the all-event team.

Contact sports reporter Bruce Pascoe at bpascoe@tucson.com. On Twitter: @brucepascoe


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