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April 12, 2012
With the departure of Josiah Turner and Kyryl Natyazhko from the Arizona men's basketball team Wednesday, here's a timeline of events from this season leading to their eventual exit in Tucson.
Turner, the hyped prize of the 2011 recruiting class, meets the media for the first time and deflects any one-and-done, NBA lottery-pick projections.
"They tell me this, they tell me that, but I just let it fly by me," Turner said at the team's Media Day. "I'm not there until I make it there."
Meanwhile, Natyazhko arrived back from his native Ukraine out of shape after an offseason in which he ballooned up to around 300 pounds after loading up on carbohydrates - particularly cakes.
"I went home and just started eating all the good food," he told the Daily Wildcat, "and the next thing you know I wasn't taking care of myself the right way like I should."
With a group of freshmen and undersized options at center, third-year head coach Sean Miller said that he needed more out of Natyazhko after failing to stay on the floor much in his sophomore year.
Turner and Natyazhko start the season-opening 73-64 win over Valparaiso, and neither played particularly well.
Natyazhko went scoreless with three rebounds, two turnovers, a blocked shot, a steal and four fouls in 15 minutes.
In his debut, Turner made just 1 of 6 shots but converted 5 of 8 free throws to finish with seven points, one assist and a turnover in 21 minutes.
Turner shows up late to the team's shootaround prior to the game against Duquesne and future Wildcat T.J. McConnell. As a result, Miller demoted Turner, who played 21 minutes off the bench and recorded zero points, three assists and three turnovers.
Turner does not appear in the Wildcats' 73-63 win over Ball State. Afterward, Miller said, "We care a lot about Josiah. It's not like he's a bad kid - he's a great kid. But he's just trying to find his way from where he left high school as a true freshman to the adjustment of being in college, on and off the court, making good decisions, working hard every day.
"Sometimes - especially very, very early in someone's career - if they don't play, it's a feeling they haven't had before. But I hope we can get him in the fold and he can develop."
Turner returns to the floor in UA's 81-72 win over St. John's at Madison Square Garden. In 19 minutes off the bench, he made 3 of 6 shots and finished with eight points, one assist, four turnovers and a pair of steals.
Natyazhko starts a sixth straight game to open the season, but it also would be the final start of his career. In that stretch, the 6-11 center produced just 1.5 points - including three scoreless efforts - and three rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game. He produced just one blocked shot in the six games.
It also was the team's first game back from a two-game road trip to New York, where the Wildcats left behind freshman center Sidiki Johnson for unspecified violations of team rules. After the Wildcats' 61-57 loss to San Diego State, Miller said Johnson's future with the team was in doubt.
He would dismiss Johnson from the team 11 days later.
After the loss to the Aztecs, Turner was asked to relate to the situation given his disciplinary actions earlier in the season.
"Coach Sean Miller don't play around," he said.
Jesse Perry, an undersized 6-7 forward, replaces Natyazhko in the starting lineup for good and the Wildcats defeated New Mexico State on the road, 83-76.
Perry notched a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes.
Natyazhko produced four points and a rebound in eight minutes off the bench.
Turner gets suspended for unspecified violations of team policy and is left behind in Tucson one day prior to the Wildcats' road contest at No. 12-ranked Florida.
"We will meet with him when we return to campus to discuss what his obligations to this program are moving forward," Miller said in a statement.
Three days after the team's 78-72 overtime loss to the Gators, Turner plays 17 minutes off the bench in a 63-47 home win over Clemson. He finished with six points, five rebounds, five turnovers and two steals.
After playing sparingly off the bench and rarely logging more than five minutes, Natyazhko plays 20 minutes and collects two points and six rebounds on the road in a 71-60 loss to Gonzaga.
A big part of the increase in minutes is because the Bulldogs featured 7-foot center Robert Sacre.
After a string of steady performances, Turner returns to the starting lineup in Arizona's 65-58 road loss to UCLA at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Turner contributed nine points, six rebounds, three assists, two turnovers and a steal in 28 minutes. Meanwhile, even against a towering Bruins frontcourt, Natyazhko played just one minute.
"No question, he's practicing better," Miller said of Turner after the game. "His mind's in the right place, his heart's in the right place. He's trying to do the best he can, both on and off the court. He deserves a lot of credit for that.
"To me, he's learned some good lessons - valuable lessons - and hopefully the best is yet to come for him."
Natyazhko is ejected in overtime of the Wildcats' emotional 81-73 win over Oregon State. He left the bench after a Kyle Fogg fastbreak basket escalated into a bench-clearing altercation. No suspensions were handed out because punches were not thrown.
After a five-game stretch in which he averaged six points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and posted a 1.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, Arizona releases the following statement:
"On a scale of one to 10, I'm about a nine," Turner said. "I just feel more comfortable right now. It's nothing more than that. I'm more comfortable with what I'm doing."
Turner hands out a career-high seven assists without a turnover in the Wildcats' 70-61 win over Utah.
Before the game, Natyazhko is suspended one game for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Meanwhile, Turner scores a career-high 15 points to go with six assists and no turnovers in a 70-54 win over USC. After starting 14 consecutive games, Turner came off the bench to allow senior Brendon Lavender to start in the final homestand of his career.
"It was what was right," Turner said.
Of his performance, Turner added: "Tonight, I went out and played more aggressively."
Added teammate Kyle Fogg: "When he's calm and he's out there playing, I think he's one of the best freshman point guards in the country."
Said Miller: "It took him a while to adjust to the college game. He's adjusted. His progression is heading in the right direction. Maybe it didn't come all at once.
"The light goes on at different times. I don't want him to take two shots, or be passive. When he's aggressive, he makes our team better."
In what would be his final game in an Arizona uniform, Turner records three points, three rebounds, three assists, three turnover, a block and a steal. The freshman made just 1 of 6 shots in 31 minutes.
Turner does not travel with the team to the Pac-12 tournament and is suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules.
"I am disappointed in Josiah for his actions," Miller said. "Unfortunately this suspension comes at a time of great excitement and opportunity for our team. However, the standards of our program will not be compromised under any circumstances. Hopefully, Josiah will learn a valuable lesson from this experience."
In what would be the final game of his career, Natyazhko plays just two minutes and registers just one personal foul in the box score of the Wildcats' 72-61 win over Oregon State to advance to the Pac-12 tournament championship game.
In the previous round, however, Natyazhko provided a surprise boost in five brief minutes against UCLA. He added collected two points and two rebounds.
Turner comes out of the tunnel with the team in street clothes prior to the 65-54 first-round NIT loss to Bucknell at McKale Center. He appeared to be in good spirits before the game; however, Turner was dressed in a plain white T-shirt, gray sweatpants and did not wear any of the red, white and blue team colors.
McConnell, who left Duquesne to pursue an opportunity playing in a bigger conference, chooses Arizona over Virginia. Per NCAA transfer rules, he must sit out one year before appearing in a Wildcats uniform but the point guard will be allowed to practice with the team leading up to the 2013-14 season.
The addition, however, puts Arizona over its scholarship limit and must make room for McConnell via transfer or some other roster move.
Turner elects to transfer to a school yet to be determined and Arizona releases the following statement:
"I learned a lot in my year at Arizona and would like to thank my coaches, teammates and the fans for all of their support," Turner said.
Added Miller: "Josiah made a great deal of progress as a student-athlete in his year with us. He will finish this semester and leave in good academic standing. All of us at Arizona wish him well in his future."
Less than three hours later, Natyazhko announces his decision to forego his senior season and return to Europe to pursue a professional career overseas.
"I'd like to thank the fans, my teammates and the coaching staff at Arizona," Natyazhko said in a statement. "It has been a wonderful experience for me to study and play here. I appreciate the efforts of everyone who helped me develop as a person and as a player. As hard as it is for me to leave, at this time I have to do what is best for me and my family and pursue these professional opportunities, but I plan on earning my degree in the near future."
Added Miller: "Two weeks ago Kyryl and I met regarding his future, and at that time he expressed to me his desire to pursue professional opportunities overseas. We agreed that he would only do it if an excellent opportunity presented itself. Since our meeting those types of opportunities, in fact, have become available to him.
"All of us at Arizona support Kyryl's desire to begin his professional career. As a part of our program for three years, Kyryl represented himself as a great teammate, a hard worker and a good student off the court. We wish him well in his professional career."
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor
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