While discussing a daily routine that includes practicing, taking graduate classes, reading the Bible, devouring other books and watching up to seven hours of basketball video, Arizona guard Justin Coleman admitted that sometimes sleep gets squeezed.
“I try to be in bed by 10,” he said, “but it doesn’t work.”
That may have to change.
With teammate Brandon Williams out indefinitely because of what UA coach Sean Miller described Tuesday as knee pain related to a congenital issue that prompted surgery two years ago, Coleman will need all the rest he can manage. Starting Thursday against Washington, he’ll take on what is likely to be the team’s biggest increase in responsibility.
Arizona has shooting guards to fill Williams’ primary role — Brandon Randolph, Dylan Smith and Devonaire Doutrive can do that. But Williams was Arizona’s backup point guard as well, and the Wildcats don’t have many of those.
Miller said he will turn to sophomore Alex Barcello as the backup point guard, but it was pretty clear in the Wildcats’ overtime loss at ASU on Jan. 31 that he prefers Coleman in there as long as possible.
Coleman played 44 of 45 possible minutes against the Sun Devils while Williams first sat out with knee pain that crept in following UA’s trip to Los Angeles the previous weekend.
Williams is out this week, too, and maybe more.
Maybe a lot more.
“I think what I’m being told it’s just part of the path that he’s traveling, with the surgery that he had and the problem that maybe he had before he got here to Arizona,” Miller said.
Williams had surgery in January 2017 to correct a congenital issue on his right knee and rehabilitated the injury for 10 months before finishing out his high school senior season. Miller said there have been a “couple of times” that Williams experienced pain or swelling since arriving at UA last summer, and that he was shut down for a while afterward each time.
Miller said Williams hasn’t suffered a new injury, but this shutdown comes at a particularly poor time for the Wildcats: Williams was playing his best of the season, and the Wildcats are on a three-game losing streak, just as first-place Washington is coming to town.
“For the most part he made it through 20 games and about 70 practices without anything pain-related hitting him,” Miller said. “For some reason, at the end of the L.A. trip — and he probably played his best overall game at Arizona against UCLA — he experienced some pain in that same knee.
“That pain has had a hard time going away and now it’s in his best interests just to make sure that we know everything that’s going on.”
Miller said he’s hopeful that Williams will improve every week.
“At some point this season, he could potentially return, but I don’t know when that date is,” Miller said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed for him that he’ll be OK because he’s obviously a terrific player playing the best basketball of his career at Arizona, and as somebody who’s already kind of paid the price with that knee in that he’s gotten through a hard part before he got here.”
Miller said UA has “all the experts in the world” looking at Williams. Coleman, meanwhile, is expected to be the primary healer on the court. That means playing nearly every minute, taking care of the ball, setting up teammates, and defending while staying clear of foul trouble.
“Justin is going to play more minutes and when you play more minutes you can’t foul, you have to play under fatigue, you have to play both ends,” Miller said. “It’s easier to break down defensively.”
At ASU, Coleman shot just 5 of 14 but had 19 points, nine assists and only two turnovers.
Barcello, meanwhile, shot 1 for 5 in 14 minutes while playing mostly off the ball. His future minutes may be more often at the point, especially if Coleman runs into fatigue or foul trouble.
“We’ve always played three point guards (in practice) for the reason that just occurred, unfortunately,” Miller said. “That’s kind of like our quarterback, so in case of an injury or foul trouble, you have a third player who’s ready. ... Even while Brandon was practicing, there were times when Alex would play the one in practice.”
While the Wildcats have fewer issues in replacing Williams’ minutes off the ball, they also found out at ASU that foul trouble can be a factor there, too. Smith fouled out with 2:45 left in regulation, unable to contribute a potential game-winner at the end of regulation or in overtime, while also prompting Miller to play Barcello for the entire overtime period.
Randolph, meanwhile, finished with 43 of 45 possible minutes played at ASU, scoring 17 points.
“Nothing changes (for Randolph and Smith) other than we’re one rotation shorter,” Miller said. “If you think about Brandon Randolph, Brandon Williams and Dylan, you can rest all three of those guys and they can all sub for each other. If one of those guys is no longer part of the equation, you’re asking everybody to do a little bit more.
“That’s the one thing when you have a key guy injured. It’s not what he no longer brings to the table; it’s how it affects everybody else. Everybody else is just a little bit different.”
- Miller declined comment on a Yahoo Sports report that said he is expected to be subpoenaed during the Christian Dawkins trial in April, and also declined to comment on the status of the NCAA’s investigation.
- On a Pac-12 teleconference call, Washington coach Mike Hopkins said forward Noah Dickerson is “day to day” and declined to say what his chances were of playing Thursday after suffering a sprained ankle last Saturday against UCLA.
- Miller said the Wildcats would prepare as if Dickerson is going to play. If he doesn’t, the Huskies could start either 6-11 Sam Timmins or the 6-6 Dominic Green, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer to beat Arizona in Seattle last season.