Arizona basketball: Cats see themselves in Buffs

Colorado freshman Xavier Johnson drives to the basket against Oregon State defenders Devon Collier, left, and Eric Moreland in the Buffaloes' first-round Pac-12 tournament victory. Colorado will face Arizona today.

Jordin Mayes isn't into looking over his shoulder, which is probably a good thing for the Arizona Wildcats.

If he was, the view could be a bit soul-draining.

As a freshman in 2010-11, the Arizona guard came in at the same time that MoMo Jones was taking point guard over from Nic Wise, but Mayes still managed to average 14.3 minutes a game while sharing the position.

As a sophomore last season, Mayes was initially pushed behind highly touted freshman Josiah Turner, but ended up sharing time and starts when Turner struggled on and of the court. Mayes started 16 of 29 games and averaged 17.6 minutes despite dealing with foot issues.

This year, Mayes might have been the Wildcats' starting point guard - had Arizona not pulled in Xavier graduate transfer Mark Lyons in the spring.

And next year, as a senior, Mayes also may not be the starter at point guard - because Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell will be eligible.

That's fine with Mayes. He says he's directly staring at all those challengers, knowing they will ultimately make him a better player.

"There's competition wherever you go," Mayes said. "You can't run from it. So you just go out there, be confident in yourself and just compete."

This season's role might have been the biggest surprise for Mayes. After Turner left the Wildcats in mid-April, Mayes was the Wildcats' most likely choice to begin the season at point guard.

Then Lyons popped up, taking advantage of a controversial NCAA rule allowing transfers to play immediately if they have graduated, and Mayes found himself locked in against a 23-year-old veteran of two Sweet 16s.

"It's very competitive every day" in practice, Mayes said. "Mark is very aggressive, and he's going to go after anyone who guards him. That's what's going to help both of us out in guarding the other guards in college basketball. It's been fun. We're talking to each other, encouraging each other and pushing each other."

As a bonus, both point guards have been practicing with and against McConnell, who must sit out this season as a junior transfer from Duquesne. McConnell brings a different game, being a true pass-first point guard while Lyons and Mayes both have some scoring DNA.

"He's quick, he's crafty with the ball and a very good passer," Mayes said of McConnell. "You've gotta try to stay in front of him and try to keep him out of the lane because he's going to make other players better."

The other good thing for Mayes this fall is that he's back to full health, after suffering a broken left foot in the summer of 2011 and then missing five games late last season with a stress reaction in the same foot.

Finding himself just starting to get back to normal last season just when he suffered the stress reaction Feb. 2 at California, Mayes hit only one three-pointer after New Year's. But he said he has practiced hard on the foot for months now with no issues.

"I feel great," he said. "I'm not really worried about my foot at all. … I'm very confident in myself this year. I know that's one of the biggest parts to the game, coming off the bench and being aggressive."

Mayes scored eight points and had an assist within a two-minute span late in the first half of Arizona's win over Charleston Southern on Sunday. The Wildcats had stumbled to an 11-3 deficit early, and Mayes' contributions sparked them to a 43-39 halftime lead.

"Jordin did a great job in the first half," UA coach Sean Miller said. "He was a big reason why we led after the first half."

That's exactly the kind of impact Mayes is hoping to have, whether it's as a starter or coming off the bench.

Not starting "doesn't really bother me," Mayes said, "because I know I can be a big part of this team and help the team to go where we want to go."

On StarNet: Keep up with the Wildcat basketball team at Bruce Pascoe's blog at

Up next

• Who: UTEP (1-0) at No. 12 Arizona (1-0)

• When: 8 p.m. Thursday


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