Lavender filling up the hoop for Wildcats
Brendon Lavender knows his role.
On a team with so many issues and question marks across its roster, Lavender might be the closest to a sure thing for Arizona. The senior guard is the Wildcats' designated shooter, and he's one of the best from 3-point range in the country.
''That's my role, come in the game, shoot that three,'' Lavender said. ''That's my best weapon right now.''
Lavender ranks third in the country in 3-point shooting percentage, hitting 57.5 percent from the arc. Throughout his career, Lavender has always come off the bench, but he has made the most of his minutes, especially this season.
Over the last six games, Lavender has gone 15-of-24 from long range, highlighted by a 5-of-6 performance that led to 18 points in a win over Oregon State last Thursday.
Despite playing well recently, Lavender is not satisfied.
Against Oregon last Saturday, he had a chance to win the game on a 3-pointer with 7 seconds remaining and Arizona trailing by two. He missed, Kyle Fogg missed the follow-up and the Wildcats lost 59-57.
''I am disappointed in myself because I had a really good look.unfortunately I missed it,'' Lavender said. ''But I guess you go through these types of moments for others to come. I mean, it was a learning experience. I didn't make it. You live and you learn.''
Despite that missed shot, head coach Sean Miller has shown enough trust in Lavender's shooting ability, defense and leadership to continually put him in during key moments.
''Me, Fogg, Jesse (Perry), Solomon (Hill), we've been here and we've been through the moment so I think that's what coach notices and he knows I can be productive at that moment,'' Lavender said.
It is that sort of attitude that has kept Lavender satisfied with his role, not only as the team's designated shooter, but also as a spark plug coming off the bench.
Playing key minutes has certainly helped Lavender overcome the fact that he is a full-time reserve, a role many players struggle to embrace. Especially someone like Lavender, who was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school.
''We all want to play, we all want to produce and we all want to contribute to a winning team,'' Lavender said. ''It has nothing to do with starting, it has everything to do with winning and competing. If I come in and make that stop and make a couple other stops and we lose, I'll be like `OK, I'm (angry) that we lost but I did my hardest to try and help win.' That's my mentality.''
Prior to this season, Lavender has started a total of eight games, not that he's minded.
''I like to be the spark off the bench, I like to come in the game and if I'm open make some shots, get some assists and really be a big part on defense,'' Lavender said. ''I like to make the game flow a little bit easier (for) my teammates.''
The hardest part about coming off the bench, Lavender said, is calibrating your legs and getting right into the flow of the game.
''It's tough at the very beginning when I get in the game since I probably sit for 5-10 minutes,'' Lavender said. ''In that time I'm on the bench, I'm trying to get my legs ready as much as I can but it's tough because those guys are already in their second wind and just going quick. As far as offensively shooting, I do so much shooting that it's just automatic.''