ANAHEIM, Calif. — Arizona has been a bit of a work in progress thus far in 2015-16, still working out things in their rotation as a lot of new faces — younger and older — try to adjust to playing together.
One of the affected players is McDonald’s All-American freshman Allonzo Trier. The wing came into college with one of the best scoring pedigrees in all of college hoops but hasn’t quite gotten off the ground yet at Arizona. Prior to Arizona’s game over Boise State on Sunday, he had only scored 20 points in the previous three games combined.
The game seemed to be moving too fast for him as well. Wildcats coach Sean Miller acknowledged that following their previous game, noting that he was still a work in progress.
“He has shown glimpses, and I have no doubt he’ll get there,” Miller said Friday. “He’s just a young player working through things right now.”
On Sunday, those things finally seemed to come into place for him. Trier scored 13 points on an efficient 5-for-6 from the field to lead a well-rounded Arizona effort in scoring, as the Wildcats defeated Boise State, 68-59.
The numbers weren’t the only impressive thing about Trier. The game slowed down. Instead of playing passive, reactive basketball, the 6-foot-5, 5-star recruit was aggressive. Instead of going out of control, he was composed and collected throughout, not doing too much or pushing the issue.
It was an impressive performance by a young player that generally looked a bit lost in the Wildcats’ defeat to Providence in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy event, where he shot 2 of 5 from the field and turned the ball over four times in 14 minutes.
His coach noted that it was an impressive performance.
“He gave us some firepower tonight that we needed,” Miller said.
With Trier, it’s not a matter of him not playing hard or working hard enough. He’s always been known as something of a basketball perfectionist, a guy who will do whatever it takes to fix ailing parts of his game. His coach noted that it’s not about minutes in the gym for Trier, it’s more about him just growing and maturing at the college level naturally.
“Allonzo is getting better, he works really hard at it every day,” Miller said. These two guys (Mark Tollefsen and Kadeem Allen) will tell you, there’s nobody on our team who invests more time in becoming a good player than Allonzo. From my perspective, me being more patient with him, him not trying to be perfect — which is what he tried to do early in this tournament — and allowing him to play through mistakes is a good thing.”
It wasn’t a perfect game. It’s not like Trier led the team to a victory or anything. It was a full team effort on both ends of the floor. However, it’s undeniably a start for a player that the Wildcats really need to get improvement from if they want to make noise this year. The team is begging for someone to step and become an alpha dog on offense, and Trier is the most skilled guy they have at putting the ball in the basket. And while tonight was certainly a step forward, Miller is still playing the long game with the talented scorer.
“In recent years, we’ve had our share of high-profile freshmen,” Miller noted. “A lot of those guys, when they first get to college, they have a lot of pressure on them because the expectations of a high school All-American are to come in and hit the ground running. Each of these guys are different. If you would have judged Stanley Johnson, for example, on how he played in the month of November, he wasn’t himself until we got to Maui. And truth be told, he had one good game in Maui. It wasn’t until we got into conference play that he really hit his stride, and that’s an example of someone who’s one heck of a talent.”
If Trier can continue his growth throughout the year and become the potential first-round pick the Wildcats need, then this team’s ceiling hits a new level. This was the most impressive performance of the Wildcats’ season to this point, and it’s not a coincidence that it came in its powerful freshman’s best game.
The question now turns to whether this performance can be a turning point so that this team, ranked in the top 15 of most preseason polls, can reach its potential.