Arizona basketball: Friends Miller, Matta turn enemies for day

Sean Miller

For Sean Miller, exhibition game starters aren't just the winners of statistical races in practice or the guys who have been around the longest.

"It will mean that that's the person we feel should be the starter," Miller said.

Except, the Arizona Wildcats coach said, the starters can change and change again. And most likely, his point guard and center positions may be in flux for a while.

On Tuesday, just two days before the Wildcats were scheduled for their first exhibition game of the season, Miller was asked who the starting center is.

"I don't know," Miller said. "I really don't, and if I told you, it wouldn't really matter. We're not at that point where one player is a clear-cut leader."

Miller said both junior Kyryl Natyazhko and freshman Sidiki Johnson will get "heavy minutes" at the position. He also said he would not be sliding a forward into the spot for now, though freshman Angelo Chol has potential to play there eventually.

"I would like to think between the two of them they can grow at that position and make us successful," Miller said of his centers.

Miller has another close call at point guard between sophomore Jordin Mayes and freshman Josiah Turner, at least for now.

"I believe in the next couple of weeks that will clear up," Miller said. "But Josiah and Jordin will both play that position."

Miller said senior Brendon Lavender or freshman Nick Johnson could be the third point guard, if needed when fouls or injuries dictate.

The three likely starters Miller has named so far all started last season: shooting guard Kyle Fogg, small forward Solomon Hill and power forward Jesse Perry.

Without Kevin Parrom around to back him up, Hill said he expected Fogg might move over to small forward a bit in Thursday's game, which would open up more time for Nick Johnson at shooting guard. Johnson displayed the kind of scoring and athleticism during the Red-Blue Game that suggested it would be difficult to keep him off the floor.

Johnson is "an incredible talent," Miller said. "It's hard for any other player to get minutes at the two spot when you consider Kyle and Nick, and where they are right now."

Big man ailing

Center Alex Jacobson may rejoin the Wildcats next week after participating in only a few practices so far because his back trouble returned, Miller said.

"He has the same lower-back situation he's had since I came here in that it locks up and doesn't allow him to run," Miller said. "There will be periods of time where he can't practice and play, and other times when it's no problem. We're trying to put him in a position to be successful, giving him some time off."

No petitions

Hill and Mayes said they did not sign a petition to the NCAA that seeks additional money for scholarship athletes, a movement begun by the National College Players Association and led at the UA by football player David Roberts.

"I haven't really heard about that," Hill said, noting that Natyazhko mentioned something to him about a movement to increase monthly stipends.

No other UA players were made available for comment during Tuesday's weekly interviews, and Miller said he knew little about it other than what he read in media reports.

Pac-12 picks

If early preseason publications are any indication, Arizona will be picked to win or at least be among the top teams when the Pac-12's media poll is released Friday.

But Miller wouldn't draw up his ballot that way.

"It would be split between Cal and UCLA, because of Cal's experience and UCLA's strength inside," Miller said of his hypothetical pick. "I wouldn't think that we would be the favorite. Hopefully we can compete for the championship, but UCLA's size and Cal's experience, to me, trumps what we have right now."

Miller said UCLA's "physical size is scary" and the Bruins have to be one of the bigger teams in college basketball. Cal has a strong returning core in guard Jorge Gutierrez, wing Allen Crabbe and forward Harper Kamp, Miller added.

"Those two stand out, Washington is always very good," Miller said, "and there's always going to be those one or two teams that surprise you."

New York trip on sale

Bon Voyage Travel is selling the remaining seats on UA's team charter to New York for the 2K Sports Classic next month.

Packages are $450 for the flights and transfers only, or $1,350 per person for a package that includes air, three nights at the team's Manhattan hotel, game tickets and transfers. Information can be found at

Individual all-session game tickets can be bought for $109 through or the McKale Center ticket office; they include the UA's two New York games and two others.

Up next

• What: Seattle Pacific vs. Arizona, exhibition

• When: 6:30 p.m., Thursday