Arizona Week: Players Not ReturningPosted by AMurawa on June 26th, 2012
Even at the start of last season, head coach Sean Miller knew that the 2012-13 team would be absent four seniors who had completed their collegiate eligibility (Jesse Perry, Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Alex Jacobson). But, given that Miller was welcoming in a strong four-man 2011 recruiting class and had already dialed in an elite 2012 recruiting class, the Wildcats still figured to be a deep and relatively young squad. However, as is so often the case these days in college basketball, half of last year’s four freshmen never stuck around long enough to see their sophomore seasons in Tucson, and would-be senior Kyryl Natyazkho also decided to forgo his final season of eligibility in pursuit of a professional career in Europe. As a result, instead of simply losing four players from last year’s team, there are a total of seven players who earned minutes last year who will not be in UA uniforms next season. We’ll look at all seven players below, roughly in the order of the degree to which they will be missed.
- Kyle Fogg – Fogg came to Tucson in relative obscurity in the class of 2008, a late bloomer ranked as just the 64th best shooting guard in his recruiting class by ESPNU. Four ever-improving seasons later, Fogg bowed out while holding some pretty impressive spots on the all-time Wildcat lists. He’s fifth on the all-time list in games started and first in games played, fourth in three-point field goals made, and seventh in minutes played. He’s 22nd all-time on the Wildcat career scoring list, quite impressive given some of the elite players who have passed through this program. What’s more, he was a guy who was considerably better as a senior than he was as a surprising freshman who earned 24 minutes a game. The quiet freshman who was a recruiting afterthought turned into a great asset for his team by the time his impressive college career was up. He’ll be missed in Tucson.
- Jesse Perry – Perry only spent two seasons in Tucson after transferring in from Logan Community College in 2010, but he was a solid contributor in his time with the Wildcats. After a relatively slow start, he turned up his game in time to help UA make its run to the 2011 Pac-10 title and the Elite Eight, then nearly doubled his output as a senior while upping his efficiency numbers too. Though undersized at 6’6” for a guy who was ostensibly a power forward, Perry was third in the conference in rebounding last season (7.5 RPG) and a key part of the UA attack. Luckily for Sean Miller and company, though, Perry’s loss will be mitigated by the arrival of three freshman big men ready to step into his role.
- Josiah Turner – Turner came to Tucson last season as the #3 rated point guard in the class of 2011, according to ESPNU. But, after a couple of suspensions and other disciplinary actions throughout the season, he decided to transfer out of the program (winding up at SMU), a decision surely aided by Sean Miller. As a result, we can wrap up his UA career with these underwhelming stats: 29 games, five double-figure scoring efforts, three games with more than five assists, and an assist-to-turnover ratio of just 1.1-to-1. There was a time where it seemed like Miller might actually want Turner to return, if only because of the complete lack of other great options at the point, but in the end, Miller’s desire to be rid of him and the accompanying headaches outbid his need for a point guard. When a month later Xavier guard Mark Lyons chose to transfer to Arizona, Miller wound up with the best of both worlds — he’s rid of Turner and still has a strong option at the point.
- Brendon Lavender – After limited minutes as a freshman, Lavender got a bump in minutes as a sophomore and showed himself to be a capable three-point shooting guard, giving Wildcat fans hope that his production would continue to rise in his final two seasons. Instead, they dipped a bit in his final two years, even as he shot 49.1% from three as a senior, hitting more threes in limited minutes last season than he did in his first three years combined. All things considered, for a solid athlete, decent defender, and a willing passer, it seems like a guy who could stroke it like Lavender would have wound up with more minutes at some point. Instead, he was an afterthought among the 2012 graduates.
- Kyryl Natyazkho – Natyazkho came to Arizona from Ukraine as a fairly highly regarded prospect, a big body who was just as comfortable banging away inside as he was stepping into the high post and making fine passes along with 15-foot jumpers. But while the big guy showed flashes of that ability from time to time, there was a consistency and a drive that seemed to be continuously missing from his game. All told, he only averaged more than 10 minutes per game in his freshman season, never averaged more than two points a game, and never showed any progression. As such, when he announced his decision in April to forgo his final season of eligibility to pursue a professional career in Europe, there was little concern from Wildcat fans. Anyway, if Natyazkho was unable to earn significant minutes last season on an undersized squad, there was no chance he was going to see much run this year with the freshman bigs providing reinforcements.
- Sidiki Johnson – Johnson’s career Arizona stats: five games, nine minutes, one point, three rebounds, two blocks, two turnovers. Oh, and one suspension for a violation of team policy that led to him never returning to the team. I’m guessing Miller hasn’t lost a whole lot of sleep over Johnson in the past seven months.
- Alex Jacobson – Jacobson is another Arizona big that just never panned out. Over four years in Tucson, his minutes reduced every season, in part due to ongoing back problems. By his senior season, he was only able to eke out 21 minutes all year, good enough for one field goal, three rebounds and three assists.