Xavier announced Monday that junior guard Mark Lyons will not return to the Musketeers next season, giving the Arizona Wildcats a chance to fill their one-year point guard hole with a player that coach Sean Miller recruited out of high school.
Lyons, a 6-foot-1 combo guard who was a third-team All-Atlantic 10 pick last season, said Tuesday before Xavier's announcement that he would "definitely" consider the Wildcats if he chose to leave the Musketeers. He could become immediately eligible next season if he graduates next month.
Lyons was recruited by Miller for Xavier, has a long relationship with UA assistant coach Book Richardson and sat out his freshman year as a partial qualifier during Miller's final season at Xavier in 2008-09.
"I love Coach Miller and the whole coaching staff there, so if I decided to leave, I definitely would look at Arizona," Lyons told the Star. "I definitely would."
Lyons has already attracted "serious" interest from Arizona, Kentucky and Kansas, according to a Twitter post from Jason Smith, who coached Lyons at Brewster Academy. Smith later tweeted that UCLA has also expressed interest.
But Lyons said he wanted to play point guard as a senior, and the Wildcats have a need for a point guard next season. UA has only combo guards Jordin Mayes, Nick Johnson and Gabe York available at the point next season as of now because freshman point guard Josiah Turner is transferring.
Playing point guard is an opportunity Lyons didn't have last season at Xavier because the Musketeers had standout Tu Holloway.
"That's what I'm going to play my final year," Lyons said. "Tu Holloway was one of the best in the country so I didn't get to play it. A lot of people don't think I can play point guard."
Lyons also lost his starting job for several games last season and had some differences with Xavier coach Chris Mack. In a statement released by Xavier on Monday, Mack said Lyons "did not recognize" Mack's expectations for next season as important. Lyons was also suspended two games for his role in the Cincinnati-Xavier brawl last season.
Lyons told the Star on Monday before Xavier's announcement that he had not decided whether to leave Xavier and that Mack wanted him to return. But Mack's statement said it "became apparent that a change for both parties was the right thing moving forward" after the two met following last season.
"During our meeting expectations were outlined for his fifth and final season, areas in which I believe needed improvement," Mack said. "Mark did not recognize these expectations as being important and ultimately it was decided that a change of scenery would be in his best interest. I wish Mark well."
Lyons is aiming to graduate next month and if he does, can become eligible immediately next season if he enrolls in a graduate program at another school that is not offered at Xavier.
However, Lyons would have to graduate in time to take a graduate admissions test, if needed, and be accepted into a graduate program. He would need to enroll at UA by July in order to be eligible for the Wildcats' preseason exhibition trip to the Bahamas.
Lyons averaged 15.1 points, 2.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game last season. He scored in double figures in 29 of the 34 games he played, including a career-high 27 points against Saint Louis on Jan. 25, and wound up starting 30 times.
Lyons finished his career 28th on Xavier's all-time scoring list with 1,194 career points in three seasons.
Coincidentally, incoming UA guard T.J. McConnell was also a third-team All-Atlantic 10 pick for Duquesne last season, but McConnell will not be eligible to play at UA until the 2013-14 season.
Arizona has one remaining scholarship for 2012-13, barring any further roster transition. Already, Turner has opted to transfer and center Kyryl Natyazhko is leaving to pursue a professional career in Europe, while forward Sidiki Johnson was dismissed in December.