Cornell grad transfer forward Stone Gettings was scheduled to join Arizona in practice for the first time Tuesday, giving the Wildcats some much-needed practice depth in the frontcourt.
UA coach Sean Miller said during his weekly news conference Tuesday that Gettings has watched UA practices since arriving in Tucson over the Christmas break but wasn’t cleared to practice until Tuesday because of the medical tests he had to take.
A second-team all-Ivy League pick as a junior last season, Gettings will not play this season but Miller is counting on him to bring depth and shooting to the frontcourt.
Getings averaged 16.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season, with a high assist ratio (assists divided by teammates’ field goals) of 24.2.
“We’re excited about being able to add him to what we do,” Miller said. “He’s a very skilled player. He can shoot the ball. Initially here, I think he’ll establish that right away that he doesn’t take a back seat to really anybody on our team when it comes to shooting. And he has a skill level. He also loves the game.
“It’s fun to coach guys who love the game because they’re always working and they’re always trying to get better and I think Stone is that type of kid and that type of player.”
Because Gettings is technically eligible to play right away as a grad transfer – though Miller says there is no chance he will play Gettings this season – Gettings can also travel with the Wildcats. That gives Arizona the chance to keep a full set of players on hand for road practices, which is especially helpful on five-day trips such as the Wildcats’ upcoming Bay Area road swing, when UA will play Stanford on Jan. 9 but Cal not until Jan. 12.
“It’s going to take some time,” Miller said. “He’s learning our system and there’s certain things he’ll be able to do and other things he won’t be able to do. I think it’s a big shot in the arm to add a quality player, especially a front line player, who can help us every day and he’s able to travel which helps us on the road, especially in the Pac-12 where you leave on a Wednesday or a Tuesday and you’re gone for three or four days.
“So while we’re together, having another player who’s a quality player not only helps Stone for the future, but also helps this year’s team.”
Even though Miller’s relationship with Steve Alford might bring back memories of their tit-for-tat late timeouts during the 2016-17 season – Miller called his with 0.9 seconds left and the Wildcats up by 11 in what SB Nation said was the pettiest timeout ever – Miller expressed empathy for Alford after UCLA fired him on Monday.
“It’s unfortunate,” Miller said. “Steve Alford has been great to me, especially over the last year, when he didn’t have to. And I respect him a ton. He’s a man of great faith who cares a lot about his family and I’m sure the next chapter of his life will be a great chapter.
“So my thoughts are really more with him and his family moving forward than UCLA, so I wish him nothing but the best and I’m sure that in his own ways he’s excited about a new chapter and a new start.”
Miller spoke of two main goals ahead for the Wildcats: Outrebounding teams and keeping turnovers in the single digits.
Over its 13 nonconference games, Arizona outrebounded opponents on average just 35.5 to 34.8, and the Wildcats’ offensive rebounding percentage of 26.1 is only the 251st best in Division I. Arizona has also averaged 11.8 turnovers a game this season.
Miller said UA’s rebounding margin is the lowest his teams have had at Arizona, except for his first season of 2009-10 (when UA was actually outrebounded slightly, 34.3 to 34.4).
“I’d say that’s at the top of the list,” Miller said. “When you get to March, it’s who rebounded more -- the other team or Arizona? Did we improve in that area? That would be a big reason we did it or didn’t in terms of whether we had a successful season.
“I think the other thing about our team is turnovers. One way you can make up for rebounding is to be a team that can play long stretches without turning the ball over. Through the months of November and December we had some great moments whether it be on the road or whether it be against pressure teams. We played halves with single digits, five turnovers, four turnovers. We had several games with we had single-digit turnovers which is a good sign.
“So the more games we can get play with 10 or fewer I think that’s a really big number for us. We can emphasize it, teach, coach, do the best we can but it remains to be seen now it will all eventually play out.”
Miller said both Ryan Luther (apparently sprained finger) and Brandon Williams (bruised knee) are fully healthy after the long break.