The Wildcats return five players who earned 10 or more minutes last season and it is a good bet that each of those players will have at least as big a role in 2012-13, with a couple different players perhaps poised for breakout seasons. Today we’ll take a look at each of them, by order of last year’s scoring average, and try to peer into the near future for each of these guys.
- Solomon Hill, Senior, Small Forward (13.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 APG) – In 2011-12, Hill led the Wildcats in rebounding and assists, was second in scoring, posted the highest field goal percentage and defensive rebound percentage, used the most possessions of anyone on the team, knocked down 37 three-pointers at a 39% clip, and did all of that in a highly efficient manner. In other words, the dude’s versatile. And, in a year where Arizona will be breaking in a one-season tire-patch of a point guard in Mark Lyons, a guy who has been known to fall in love with his own shot, Hill’s ability to play the point-forward position could be vital. Further, with a bunch of talented freshman bigs getting ready to make an impact in Tucson, Hill could be pushed out of the paint more, setting up camp more on the perimeter and at the elbows. If he can continue to improve his jumper as he has done, he could prove to be a matchup nightmare, capable of stepping out to hit the three, knocking down the pull-up off a couple dribbles, using a power move to get to the hoop, or feeding the bigs out of the high post. Really, while Hill definitely shone in his junior year, he could be primed to step it up even another notch in his final collegiate campaign. Throw in his ability as a vocal leader on a team with plenty of youngsters (he could, in particular, be a mentor for freshman big Grant Jerrett, who has some of the same skills that Hill possesses) and Hill could be one of the most important players to his team in the entire country.
- Nick Johnson, Sophomore, Shooting Guard (9.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG. 2.4 APG) – Johnson’s freshman season got off to a flashy start, with seven double-figure scoring efforts prior to New Year’s Day, copious amounts of highlight-reel dunks, solid defense, and a confident jumper. Unfortunately, once conference play rolled around, he struggled with his jumper (he shot 41.7% from three prior to January 1 and 28% afterward) and his confidence waned. Opponents began playing off him and daring him to shoot, and his entire game at both ends of the floor was negatively impacted by his shooting woes. Still, all things considered, it is hard to be anything but bullish about Johnson’s future. As athletic as any returning guard in the conference, Johnson’s got a strong first step, the ability to throw down a dunk in an opposing big man’s face, and a willingness to make the unselfish play when it presents itself. Add on the ability to be a lockdown defender and, so long as Johnson tightens up his jumper, he could be among the conference’s best players next year.