TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Sean Miller has his team 17-2 and in the hunt for a Pac-12 title at 5-2. With six weeks left in the conference season, little about how the season will play out for the Wildcats is certain.
What appears to be certain, however, is that their rotation is set at eight strong — and there are plenty of questions being asked about the that rotation and Miller’s deployment of his talented bunch. Specifically, why don’t freshman guard Gabe York, a known quality scorer, and sophomore Angelo Chol, a known defensive presence near the basket, play more?
After Saturday, those questions might be even louder. Chol, who went in averaging 8.3 minutes, and York (6.3 minutes) each played a little more than eight relatively impressive minutes in an easy victory over USC. York, who hadn’t played in six consecutive games, had seven points, going 2 for 5 from 3-point range. Chol, who hadn’t played in three of the previous four, had one point and two rebounds.
Miller said he understands the questions. And there are no simple answers. There’s only so much playing time to go around, and he has to parcel it out based on his vision on how it will impact the rest of the season. After all, who knows better than the guy who watches these players every day in practice?
Saturday’s blowout of Southern California provided the perfect time to get everyone involved, more specifically the ninth (Chol) and 10th (York) guys in the rotation.
But that won’t always be the case, so Miller likely continue with an eight-man rotation when Arizona travels to Washington this week.
Miller said he met with Chol and York recently to discuss their situations.
“(Angelo) said, ‘Coach, as long as we’re winning, you never have to talk to me,'” Miller said.
He added: “Some guys might say that and then, as soon as they leave, they’re on a different path. Angelo is really on that path.
“Angelo’s future is extremely bright. What you see now and what you can see down the road is going to be two different things, I promise you that.”
Chol’s offensive skills are still relatively raw, and he’s been prone to fouls on the defensive end. Chol, a 6-foot-9 forward, can’t give what 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski brings in the middle, and he’s not as basketball savvy nor as athletic as forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett.
York is behind senior Mark Lyons, sophomore Nick Johnson and junior Jordan Mayes in the backcourt, and that’s not accounting for senior swingman Kevin Parrom.
“I talked to Gabe a long time ago,” Miller said. “and continue to reinforce this: He has worked very hard in practice and has a great attitude, but the way you break through in his situation is to get in a game like (USC) and make everyone see that ball go in and say, ‘Wow, that looked easy,'” Miller said.
“He can really score.”
York, like Chol, is “in a really good mind-set,” Miller saidm, knowing he’s part of the big-picture future. Eventually there will be a need for what he brings to the table.
Patience and practice are keys. Miller said one of York’s weaknesses — his defense — has improved by “leaps and bounds.”
“They’re definitely two very talented players,” Ashley said of Chol and York. “On any other team, they could get major minutes. We’re just such a deep team, it’s hard for everyone to get into the game and play a huge role.”
So the Wildcats will head to Washington this week with an eight-man rotation and the comfort of depth as they continue to chase a Pac-12 title.
“For us, we’re always trying to make our team better,” Miller said.