Arizona Hoops: Miller’s Trio of Freshman Experienced Beyond Their Years

Sean Miller has given Nico Mannion the keys to drive the bus and technically he should only be a Senior in High School. Mannion reclassified because playing another season against High School competition would be pointless. He is a 2 time Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year and averaged 30 points per game last season at Pinnacle. So Mannion is the headliner but Zeke Nnaji has proven to be mature beyond his years as well as Mannion. Then we have the Aussie, Josh Green. Green’s game resembles former Arizona legend Nick Johnson but Green’s offensive game is much more polished than Johnson’s was as a freshman. In fact, for PAC 12 Media Day Miller chose to have Josh Green and Nico represent Arizona. Having Two freshmen showcase Arizona at Media Day is unlike Miller. These are very well-spoken young men that would represent the University with class so it was probably a no-brainer for Miller having them there.

Arizona Wildcats men's basketball vs. San Jose St.
Opening Night at McKale

Miller has a winning percentage of .751, 269 wins, 89 losses. However, he’s never had a player like Nico. That is no knock on TJ McConnell. Nico is a different breed. The guy has that “Mamba Mentality” that Kobe Bryant made famous. Hence, the nickname, the Red Mamba, among more. Mannion can average over 20 points per game if he wanted but he’d rather get everyone involved and take his when it’s there. Just watch the dunk against SoutHis basketball IQ might be his best quality. He understands the importance of getting everyone involved. Nico continually gets everyone the ball in the right places and the right time. I can write for days on why I think Mannion is the Greatest Of All Time, or the GOAT to the Millenials out there, so ill stop talking about him right now. Nico brought his AAU teammate and best friend Josh Green to Tucson.

We all remember Nick Johnson right? A legend in Tucson. Picture a better shooting version of Nick Johnson and you have Josh Green. Athletically gifted that can absolutely lock you down on defense. He also has a motor that never stops which is something that can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t. Green committed after Nico and they’ve been playing together on the West Coast Elite AAU team and were undefeated when they played together prior to coming to Arizona. This shortens the chemistry-building timeline. In the 5 games so far Green has one 20 pt game and one 15 pt game. So, Nico and Green were the most hyped of this freshman class but the most important is Zeke Nnajy from Minnesota.

Rick Scuteri Associate Press
Rick Scuteri AP

Zeke Nnajy landed in Tucson a year after he helped lead his High School team (Hopkins HS) to a State Championship in Minnesota. Since he got to Tucson he’s put on about 20 pounds of a muscle to go with his 6’11 frame. It shows too he’s averaging 19 ppg and 6 rpg. In the 5 games Arizona has played he has scored 20, 19, 26, 19, and 12. Zeke also had a 2-game stretch in which he didn’t miss a bucket. He’s over 80% from the free-throw line too, something freshman struggle with early on. If Arizona wants to be back in the final 4 Zeke needs to have a big role. We’ll see how he plays against bigger competition like Gonzaga and Baylor because the Nation is starting to see what Miller saw years ago. He’s a beast.

Arizona’s blend of freshman and upperclassmen is outstanding. Arizona has 5 upperclassmen coming off the bench that can also take a game over. Kentucky transfer Jemarl Baker, UC Irvine transfer Max Hazzard, and Cornell transfer Stone Gettings.  Having Baker immediately ruled eligible by the NCAA in the wake of losing last seasons leading scorer to a knee injury. Recruiting the transfer portal is something Miller has put an emphasis on since he became Head Coach.

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