Victor brings physical rebounding presence to Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. — Call him a throwback or old school.
Call Craig Victor what you want, but make sure to also call him a piece of Arizona basketball’s future … and just maybe, the present.
To Victor, a product of Las Vegas’ Findlay Prep by way of New Orleans, the old-school label means getting the job done.
Whether that opportunity comes soon rather than later might not be known for a while, but Arizona coach Sean Miller knows Victor can add depth to the front court if needed this season and definitely down the road. More might be determined when Arizona plays in its exhibition game against Cal Poly Pomona on Nov. 9.
"Craig is a physical player, almost like a throwback forward in that he loves to rebound the ball and score close to the basket," Miller said of his 6-foot-9, 230-pound freshman. "He’s getting better at the things he needs to. He’s in great shape. Being a big guy, he’s (realizing) how fast the game is. It’s always an adjustment for a big guy."
Victor arrived on campus in a game-ready body. Big, stout and eager to learn. He said he’s never been in the gym more than he has since he arrived at UA, shooting more than 4,000 shots so far.
"I’m very comfortable in my role and my position," he said.
He has time to put in the work. With Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Matt Korcheck in the front-court mix, Victor will have to earn his opportunity — most likely via his work on the backboards.
It’s in his DNA.
"Craig is an unbelievable worker," said Tarczewski. "I’ve never seen someone rebound as well as him."
Victor said that comes from "playing hard and being in the right spots."
That’s the first thing former UA coach Lute Olson noticed about him. Victor uses his body and works around the rim with an aggressiveness that reminds him of former UA player John Edgar, a 6-6 forward who was so prolific at getting rebounds he led the 1985-86 team with 7.3 a game.
"John did a really good job for us on the boards and he ran the court very well," Olson said.
The second guy he reminds Olson of is Michael Wright, an undersized 6-7 power forward who led Arizona in rebounding his sophomore (8.7) and junior year (7.8) before bolting for a shot in the NBA.
"I haven’t seen Craig often enough to know how he shoots it," Olson said, "but John and Michael were very good around the basket."
Victor realizes that’s what will get him playing time. That and playing defense, of course.
"I’m just taking it one day at a time," he said. "I’m not really looking to the future and who is going to play and how much. It’s about taking your time and getting better. Like Coach Miller says, either you’re getting better or you’re getting worse. There’s no in between."
Edgar, in a telephone interview from his home in California, said he saw Victor for the first time in Arizona’s annual Red-Blue game and came away impressed.
When asked if he has any advice for Victor, Edgar said to ignore the pressure being in the uniform and all its expectations.
"I’d recommend he go hard, and what I saw in the (Red-Blue game) was him playing hard; continue to do that," he said. "Don’t try to prove yourself to anybody, but prove yourself to yourself. You know what you can do. You know what you need to work on. Know your role … what your value is to the team and then continue to build on that."