After a summer largely behind closed doors, Arizona opened up one of its four-player workouts to media today, and the view was not a surprise.
The Wildcats’ freshmen big men, who appeared in a four-player workout with sophomore Angelo Chol, appeared much further along both physically and fundamentally than your everyday collection of freshmen big men.
Chol has gained at least 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-9 frame while forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett showed promising versatility and Kaleb Tarczewski was notably mobile for a 7-footer.
Then again, it’s also helped that the Wildcats were able to hold small-group drills with enrolled players since June, and that they had 10 full practices allowed before their Bahamas exhibition trip last month.
Starting in June “we were allowed to work out with our team very similarly to this,” Miller said after the hour-long workout (a total of two hours per player with coaches is allowed per week in the offseason). “On the heels of that to have the team workouts (before the Bahamas trip) added to the advantage.
"I think each of the freshmen have added to that significantly. Hopefully they can take that head start and build on it.”
The four big men started out working individually at different baskets in the Richard Jefferson Gym, practicing a variety of post moves. They tipped balls off the backboards six times before trying to tip in the seventh. They practice short drives before shooting, then worked on coming off screens, before moving into defensive work.
In one particularly tiring drill, the big men each tagged up under the basket and then raced to the perimeter to “close out” defensively on each of the “guards” (assistants Book Richardson, Joe Pasternack, JayDee Luster and Miller himself were among them).
“We try to hit on all parts,” Miller said. “Some defense and skill development, some team things. We try to make it almost like a mini-practice and most importantly try to simulate a fast pace.”
At the end of the workout, even Miller had broken a sweat. He was smiling and friendly, but intense, as always, even with all this new talent around him.
Asked if he felt more relaxed, Miller made it clear that, while he knows he has a good team, he also has a lot of work ahead.
“No, I’m not more relaxed,” Miller said. “Really for us it’s trying to guide this ship and really try to have a good day, a good week, and a week becomes a month. That’s the process we all live by because at the end of the day each game can’t be life or death. But in a way what can be life or death is how we do things on a daily basis.
“This, so far, has been a good group led by some older guys and I think the new players have really come in here with a good work ethic and a willingness to learn.”
Miller said Tarczewski's added weight has not caused any issues, noting that Tarczewski had tendinitis in his knee before he arrived at UA and still has some, though it is not a problem.
"The weight he's put on, he's put on in the right way," Miller said. "He naturally progressed just by working hard. I’m sure there will be a case five years from now where he’ll be even stronger. I think it’s a good thing where he’s at physically."