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September 25, 2013

Arizona hoops media day notes

Let the battle for minutes begin.

With Arizona basketball practice set to begin Friday - thanks to the change in NCAA rules that moved up the calendar - head coach Sean Miller said he expects to use an eight-man playing rotation next season. He added that one of his concerns is that the Wildcats are "not as deep, maybe, as it appears."

"We have a lot of different players that can play multiple positions," Miller said Wednesday during the team's media day. "I don't think you're going to see us play 10 or 11 players.

"But those eight guys are interchangeable."

With the number of different capable contributors on defense, Miller said he could even use some three-guard lineups that would move Nick Johnson over as an unofficial small forward, alongside Aaron Gordon and Brandon Ashley.

Ashley told GOAZCATS.com later in the day that he would be the center in that particular lineup.

"Part of our depth isn't in numbers," Miller said. "It's in the versatility of the players that we have."

So, with Johnson sliding over, a guard off the bench will be available to fill in at shooting guard. Among the likely candidates are five-star freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, sophomore Gabe York and senior Jordin Mayes.

Miller said he also in unsure, however, how many minutes his starting backcourt of Johnson and Duquesne transfer point guard T.J. McConnell will command.

York, who appeared in just 15 of 35 games as a freshman and was buried on the bench because of his defense, said he is focused on avoiding a repeat of last season.

"It's just the will of wanting to play defense, and knowing what my goals are and wanting to be able to be out on the court," York said.

Instead of opening practice in mid-October, the extra time allows for a "mini camp," consisting of four days of practices and two days of rest before falling back into a normal schedule.

To start, Miller said, practices will not be as long as usual because the players will not yet be conditioned to endure the regular workload.

"So, I think we're aware of the length of time we're going to practice, giving them an additional day off," Miller said. "At the same time, being able to teach and implement our system and do it in a comprehensive way - so that when we get to the normal starting period of time, we'll feel good about the progress we've made."

The progress in the battle for playing time should be a bit more clear, too.

Miller downplays preseason expectations

Now entering his fifth season, the expectations may be higher than ever for a Miller-led team. Miller said the hype was similar last season, and was dealt some "unrealistic" expectations when he first arrived in Tucson in 2009.

Still more than a month away from the start of the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats are ranked as high as fifth and most publications have put them in the preseason top 10 already.

Miller is not so sure his team may be as advertised, but added that the players "embrace" the standards of the program.

"I think it's just the way it goes," Miller said. "But I do believe that where we're rated, how good we're supposed to be - we may not be that good. I don't know yet.

"But recognize that just because you're a preseason whatever, or people think you have an opportunity to have the best team, that remains to be seen."

Zach Peters: Arizona basketball's Davonte' Neal?

Miller said he has "no rhyme or reason" to be optimistic about the Kansas transfer's possible availability this season.

Peters dealt with a series of concussions before leaving the program he never played a game for as a freshman last season. The 6-10 forward made the decision to attend Arizona in May, and Kansas has cooperated in helping him petition to play immediately, Miller said.

But, like Rich Rodriguez experienced on the football field with Neal, the NCAA has continued to delay its decision.

Miller said the program is "0 for 5" in deadlines with the NCAA with no real end in sight.

"I would say when they give us the sixth deadline, they'll miss that one, too," Miller joked. "But we're anticipating an answer as soon as tomorrow. We anticipated an answer three weeks ago.

"And if you ask me three weeks from now, I may say that we're anticipating an answer the following week."

For more basketball media day coverage in the next several days, including 1-on-1 video interviews and features on a number of players, stay tuned to GOAZCATS.com.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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