A man wearing a Video Productions Crew jacket filmed Sean Miller’s entrance, walking down a hallway and into an overflowing media room.
The clicking of camera shutters followed, as if George Clooney or Matt Damon had been spied by paparazzi.
When all the available seats were taken, five people sat on the floor. One woman wore four-inch heels for the occasion. The entire session was streamed live, available globally.
Basketball media day at McKale Center has become an event unto itself. The first official game is 41 days away. The annual intrasquad scrimmage, the Red and Blue Game, has already been sold out, producing more than $100,000 in revenue.
The mania and expectations seem to get bigger every year, don’t they?
“It’s just the way it goes,’’ said Miller, “but I do believe with where we’re rated, how good we’re supposed to be, we may not be that good, I don’t know yet. From a pure body perspective, we may be one man down on the front line. … We’re not as deep, maybe, as it appears.’’
And then, about 24 hours later, as if the basketball gods were listening, the NCAA ruled 6-foot 10-inch freshman Zach Peters immediately eligible.
This is basketball as we have known it at Arizona, 30 years of headlines, the next one bigger than the one before.
If Peters was indeed the missing piece to Miller’s fifth Arizona roster, he is an intriguing piece. He is believed to have the shooting touch and range that Grant Jerrett took with him to the NBA draft.
“He’s legit,” said UA junior Nick Johnson. “Don’t leave him open.”
Peters’ initial college foray, at Kansas, failed because of a series of concussions. Many used that occasion to suggest Peters wasn’t “Kansas good.” By comparison, Miller has not hesitated to describe Peters as instant offense, a stretch-four power forward who can make an immediate impact.
“I’ve always been able to shoot,’’ said Peters, who is thoughtful and conversational. “When I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, before I grew to 6-10, I played guard. So I learned to shoot from the perimeter.
“Then they moved me to the low post and told me to stay down there. That’s how it goes in high school when you’re 6-10. It started to change when I accompanied Kansas on its European trip. I began to shoot from outside again. I realized my role would be as a pick-and-pop guy. Now that’s my game.’’
As for comparisons to Jerrett, who is trying to make the Oklahoma City Thunder roster, Peters said, “I don’t move as well as Grant, but I’m more physical.’’
Miller said his rotation this season is apt to include eight players. With Peters available, that strategy may change a bit. Nine, maybe? Whatever Miller chooses to do, the Wildcats now have the depth and flexibility of a club whose top-10 preseason label seems to fit.