When Arizona sophomore guard Gabe York stepped to the free-throw line with the No. 1 Wildcats up by one and only 1.4 seconds left at Michigan on Saturday, whether he made the shots was only half the story.
The other: that he was in the game in the first place.
York played only six minutes a week earlier against UNLV, meaning UA coach Sean Miller effectively used only a six-man rotation.
Miller knew that wasn’t going to work for the long haul.
“Gabe didn’t play as much (against UNLV), and that’s not good for us or Gabe,” Miller said two days later.
Miller responded by playing York 23 minutes last Wednesday against New Mexico State and 13 against the Wolverines. York made only 1 of 9 field goal attempts in those two games but picked up crunch-time experience that could pay off during Pac-12 play or the postseason.
Now, with a game Thursday against Southern and another Monday against NAU, the Wildcats might have a chance to further develop their bench, which Miller has said was part of his developmental aim this month.
Of course, out of respect to the Wildcats’ next two opposing coaches — and maybe because of a little fear — Miller wasn’t about to count on that happening.
“We’re always looking to develop our bench, but I don’t know what the final score is going to be,” Miller said. “I don’t want to (assume) that we’re going to have a big lead. You just never know. Looking at the (games) Southern played, even their game at Florida, the final was (67-53), but that was really a 10-point game throughout.”
But even if the Jaguars (3-7) are just as tough on UA on Thursday, Miller might have to use another sub if center Kaleb Tarczewski is unable to play because of a sprained ankle.
Miller said he likely would give more time to freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who’s already averaging 22.7 minutes a game, and junior forward Matt Korcheck could be a factor.
Korcheck, a transfer from Cochise College who sat out last season, has appeared in five games so far and in the first half of only one, UA’s Nov. 11 blowout win over Long Beach State.
“I think he’s ready,” Miller said. “There’s a difference between playing in the first half or maybe at the end of the game, but Matt’s one of our hardest workers. He hasn’t missed one day of practice over the last two years, and he knows what to do. I think for the role he would have, he’s big and he’s strong, and I think he’ll do a good job for us.”
Miller said Korcheck is ahead of freshman forward Zach Peters in “really all ways,” especially considering Peters is only a second-year freshman who hasn’t played regular-season college basketball yet because of his concussion history.
“Zach, in a sense, has missed a year and a half,” Miller said last week. “He continues to practice … but it’s hard right now to take minutes away from Kaleb or Brandon (Ashley) or Aaron (Gordon). We’re constantly looking to get those guys more minutes because of who they are.”
Miller is having the same issue in the backcourt while trying to find time for senior Jordin Mayes. He has averaged only 5.3 minutes over 11 games, and has hit just 3 of 13 three-pointer attempts, though Miller said Mayes has a great attitude and doesn’t get enough credit for his defensive ability.
“On offense we just want him to keep things simple,” Miller said. “I don’t think how many minutes he’s playing is a reflection of who he is as much as I’m gonna (have to) take four more minutes from Rondae or one of the other guys. So we’re just going to have that delicate balance.
“But Jordin’s important to us. As an example with what just happened to Kaleb, you’re always one (person in) foul trouble, one injury away from a deeper bench. So Jordin’s a great guy for us. If we called on him, I believe he would do well.”