If he weren’t already a proven high-level shooter, Max Hazzard might have trouble deciding which way to head next when his college basketball career ends next spring.
The Arizona graduate transfer is pursuing a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from the Eller College of Management, something he could combine with his UC Irvine undergraduate degree in sociology to head into business, coaching or maybe even some sort of consulting.
Or he could expand his current part-time gig as a disc jockey into something more, maybe back in the music business of his Los Angeles hometown.
“I potentially want to run a business,” Hazzard said. “I’ve been a DJ for a long time and I’m not really sure where it’s going to take me.”
But also there’s this: The six-foot Hazzard can shoot the ball, finishing second in Big West Conference 3-point percentage (38.8) last season while hitting 5 of 11 from long range in the Anteaters’ first-round NCAA Tournament upset of Kansas State.
This season, he’s getting another chance to expand his on-court resume, too: Already expected to be a starter or major contributor at shooting guard, Hazzard might also slide over to back up at point guard when freshman Nico Mannion is out of the game, much in the way the now-injured Brandon Williams did last season with point guard Justin Coleman.
That experience, especially if it goes well, suggests a shot at professional basketball might be something to consider first.
“Max is a great shooter,” said UA coach Sean Miller, who is scheduled to hold his annual preseason media day Tuesday. “He has a really quick release and he’s got great confidence in himself. He was a real big part of a team at UC Irvine that won 31 games last season.”
That confidence can be seen clearly on the stat sheet: Of Hazzard’s 386 shots last season, 240 of them were from beyond the arc — a full 62.1 percent of his attempts.
Arizona, by contrast, last season didn’t have anyone put up more 3s than the 132 Brandon Randolph shot, and didn’t have anyone make them more accurately than Ryan Luther, who hit 37.5% of his 120 3s.
What’s more, Hazzard might have nothing to fear this season with the expanded 3-point arc, which is being pushed back nearly 17 inches this season, to 22 feet and 1¾ inches. That’s between the old college line of 20 feet, 9 inches and the NBA arc of 23 feet, 9 inches.
Last season, while playing in arenas painted with NBA 3-point arcs such as Anaheim’s Honda Center, Hazzard said he was already shooting behind the long arc without thinking about it.
“I shoot too far away anyway, so it doesn’t really matter to me,” Hazzard said. “The majority of the time, I was shooting NBA threes. Now that I think about it, it’s kind of what I work on.”
This season, Hazzard has a few other things to work on. For one thing, being an immediately eligible graduate transfer means a quick immersion in Miller’s philosophies and terminologies without having the benefit of a sit-out redshirt year to soak it up.
“Everything’s a little different here, from the terminology to my teammates and the coaching staff,” Hazzard said. “The way we play defense differs from the way we played defense at Irvine. There’s a lot of things I’ve got to get caught up on but I’m confident in my ability to be able to do that.”
At the same time, Hazzard and Mannion are sharpening each other in a sense, especially when they play opposite each other at the point. (Kentucky transfer Jemarl Baker is also playing point guard, being scheduled to redshirt unless he receives a NCAA waiver to play immediately.)
Hazzard and Mannion might not yet be verbally jabbing at each other — “I will, but I’m letting him get in something first,” Hazzard says with a smile – but they each have things they can teach the other.
Even though Mannion is a five-star point guard who has played for Italy’s senior national team and projects as a potential NBA first-rounder next spring, he’s still new to college basketball.
“He’s got a good reputation,” Hazzard said. “He’s young but he’s skilled, he’s strong, he’s confident and that’s what you want to see in a young guard. I’m trying to push him, make him better and he’s making me better as well. So I’m enjoying it.”
It’s the kind of relationship Miller is aiming to find on a team with widespread age and experience levels. The Wildcats have four highly rated freshmen including Mannion, but also four highly experienced fifth-year seniors including Hazzard.
Glue is a necessity.
“He comes from a winning background, and he’s been very well-coached,” Miller said of Hazzard. “His ability to score double figures, make 3-point shots, have great confidence, and be somebody that has the experience that he has is just very much needed and welcomed here.”