Those weary of the Arizona Wildcats’ string of scoring-minded point guards in recent years can take heart in T.J. McConnell’s new Twitter handle.
Except, well, sometimes shooting is good, too.
McConnell went 1 for 5 from the field, with three assists and two turnovers, in Saturday’s Red-Blue Game scrimmage, but even his ex-point guard of a coach would have liked to see a few more shooting attempts.
Especially after Wildcats hit just 3 of 14 three-pointers according to the approximate stats compiled from the scrimmage.
“T.J. has to shoot the ball when he’s open because he’s a 40-percent three-point shooter,” fifth-year UA coach Sean Miller said. But “that was his first time playing in over a year.
“I would like to think as he settles in, there’s gonna be a couple of good opportunities for him to shoot it and when you see him shoot it, he’s one of our team’s best shooters.”
McConnell shot 50.4 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from three-point range over his two years at Duquesne, where he played before transferring to Arizona in the summer of 2012. He then made an appearance in last season’s Red-Blue Game before sitting out the redshirt season required of transfers, picked up the system, and impressed teammates with his wide range of offense and defensive skills.
Not all of those skills surfaced Saturday.
“I think T.J. played well,” guard Nick Johnson said. “He didn’t shoot the ball enough. But he passed the ball well.”
Even though it was only a scrimmage, and one featuring a defense that made life difficult for shooters, the Red-Blue Game did underscore one of UA’s concerns entering the preseason: There are no proven outside shooters.
Johnson has made shooting a point of emphasis over the summer but, while he helped the Red team to a 44-39 win in many ways, went 2 for 10 from the field and hit just 1 of 5 three-pointers.
Of the other scholarship guards, Jordin Mayes was 0 for 2, Elliott Pitts was 1 for 5 and Gabe York, while nursing a sore hamstring and ankle, went just 1 for 9.
That’s a total mark of 5 for 31 from the field — just 16 percent — for the guards. The three-point rate was 2 for 12 (17 percent).
“I would say I’m going to look positively at it in that I think we’re a very good defensive team,” Miller said, when asked about the numbers. “I think we have a chance to be excellent. We didn’t break down (defensively) because it wasn’t like an all-star game. I thought we had a pretty good way about us to be able to play hard from start to finish.
“Certainly we weren’t perfect. But our defense is ahead of our offense, and, because of that, I don’t look at us as generating a lot of good shots in that scrimmage.”
Johnson and Miller said during UA’s postgame media session that the Wildcats’ scoring will be balanced among a number of different players this season. Johnson was also asked who the best shooter on the team is.
“We’ve got a lot of shooters on our team,” he said.
But if all those shooters have another off game, Miller has other ideas. Notably taking advantage of UA’s frontcourt skills and athleticism, thus creating easier baskets and potentially shifting defenses’ attention away from the perimeter.
Shooting is “a point of concern for our team — our shooting is something we really have to work on, we have to take good ones,” Miller said. “We’re going to be a team that’s sometimes has to pound the ball inside and get out in transition.
“But when we get out in transition and when we pound the ball inside, that’s when you’re going to see us at our best. When we do that, that will open up really good opportunities from three.”