In his first regular-season game in an Arizona uniform, Chase Jeter had a double-double in less than 20 minutes Wednesday. With more good health, and maybe some more help from his teammates, that sort of production could become common this season.
UA coach Sean Miller said Jeter was playing his best before he was hurt last month and was no doubt relieved to see some of that game resurface Wednesday in UA’s 90-60 win over Houston Baptist.
“We have to develop (what he can do) and some of it is our team,” Miller said. “It’s just get him the ball in scoring position, get a couple more jump hooks, get a couple more two-point shots, because I think he’ll get fouled or I think he’ll make them.”
Miller said sophomore forward Brandon Randolph has been wearing the team’s gold jersey in practice lately, signifying he’s been the best player in overall practice production.
Obviously, he’s also been pretty good in games.
Randolph had 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting Wednesday after averaging 19.5 points on 60 percent shooting in UA’s two exhibition games.
Earning the gold jersey is “always a good first step in that he’s doing it every day, now not in an exhibition game, and he’s growing,” Miller said. “Sometimes that jump from a freshman to a sophomore is significant and Brandon’s always been able to shoot the ball. I think he’s learning the game and he’s more of a complete player. He still is going to keep getting better because it’s the very beginning of his sophomore year, but definitely right now he’s been a bright spot on our team with the way he’s scored.”
Randolph said it helped playing against guys such as Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins last season, and that he took their advice to get stronger.
"I needed to get stronger and I needed to take smart shots," Randolph said. Extra strength "helps me get to the basket, and I can definitely tell the difference this year."
Brandon Williams, meanwhile, was 2 of 11 from the field but had five assists and no turnovers.
“Playing in a game like that, against that type of pressure, that’s a job well done,” Miller said. “He went 8-for-9 on the line and he hasn’t shot the ball very well from the free throw line but he’s an excellent free-throw shooter. Sometimes you have to get that first game under your belt and I’m sure he’ll bounce back on Sunday.”
Miller played freshman guard Devonaire Doutrive for seven minutes in the second half after not playing him in Arizona’s exhibition game on Sunday aginst Chaminade. Doutrive responded by hitting both shots he took, including a 3-pointer.
“Like you would expect for a talented young player who worked hard, he was disappointed he didn’t get in the last game but his attitude is tremendous,” Miller said. “From the day he stepped foot on our campus in June, he’s done everything we asked of him.
“Physically, he’s like a young colt. He’s so young. His body, how much he weighs, how strong he is -- the best is yet to come for him and you can almost see that. What we’re trying to do right now is get him better on defense and really try to get him to think about what role he can have. It’s too early to say this player is going to play and another guy’s not. He’s one of those guys we’re closely watching. I could certainly see him cracking the rotation, and helping us because he can do a lot of different things.”
Going 1 for 5 from the field, Dylan Smith’s shooting slump appeared to continue from the exhibition season. Smith was 1-of-8 from the field in the Red-Blue game, 3-of-5 against Western New Mexico and 0-for-7 against Chaminade.
But Smith collected nine rebounds, two blocks and one steal that led to a 3-pointer from Alex Barcello. He had 12 rebounds total over UA’s two exhibition games.
“Dylan’s really struggling right now and he’s lost his confidence,” Miller said. “I go more on what I see every day and he’s a much better shooter than he’s shown.
"But I’ll tell you this about him -- he rebounds the ball and he gives his heart and soul on defense. He’s finding ways to help our team and I think he’ll settle in eventually here and he’ll be able to take good shots, make the ones that he takes and that’ll be a real shot in the arm. Because so far we’ve really played without him scoring or shooting.
“He doesn’t have to score 20 but he’s a much better shooter than he’s shown. I’m proud of him because in spite of that not working out for him, he’s really found some other things to help our team.”
The Wildcats were playing without suspended forward Ira Lee on Wednesday, and Houston Baptist was creating plenty of offensive rebounding chances with poor shooting, but Miller said it still was a big concern that UA gave up 18 offensive boards to the Huskies.
Miller said of Smith and Jeter that “it’s hard to really argue with their numbers but this year we really have to rebound as a team. We don’t have those couple of bigs in there who are going to get those big rebounds for you. We need our guards to get in there.
"Our room for error when the other team misses -- that’s a big difference. And we have to block out. When guards don’t block out, you feel it. Tonight, even with our bigs, a couple of times we had one on one opportunities and their big got it and put it back in. That’s something we’ll take from this game and really to work on and improve as we head into Sunday.”
Asked what the visiting Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offered any wisdom to the players, Miller reverted to the same topic.
“He talked a lot about how those guys have to block out,” Miller said. “It’s probably much better than they hear it from him.”
Our full game coverage and the box score are attached to this post.