There were few bigger risk-reward moves in college hoops this season than the transfer of former Xavier guard Mark Lyons to Arizona. On paper, the fifth-year senior guard is exactly what the very young and very talented Wildcats need -- a guy who can handle the rock, a guy who's been to the deeper portions of the NCAA tournament before. But Lyons left Xavier under a rather ominous and vague cloud of attitude concerns, to the point that Xavier coach Chris Mack practically said as much in his statement on Lyons' departure. So the question is obvious: Will Lyons' clear talent and experience net out as a positive for the Wildcats? Or will his personal stuff, not to mention a tendency to be very fond of bad shots, get in the way?
Truth is, we won't have our answer for a while -- December at the earliest, probably. But for now, Lyons is doing his best to ingratiate himself with his new teammates, and things seem to be going pretty well. From the Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe:
"The first thing I try to do with teammates is become their friend," Lyons said. "That's more important because there's life after college basketball. Being a friend and knowing they can trust you on and off the court makes it easier. It wasn't hard. We all welcomed each other. We went to the Bahamas. It was a great trip, and it seems like we all get along. No problems."
"He fits in great," [Arizona forward Solomon] Hill said. "He's as verbal was MoMo (Jones, former UA guard) was, very verbal and making sure everybody is on point. And he's a guy who's been there. He can control egos. He can keep guys in line. I think some of the guys will understand the type of guy he is - he's not yelling at you to get you mad or trying to get on your bad side. He's yelling at you because he sees a good player in you."
This all sounds good, and there's much more where that came from in Pascoe's story, but for me the reviews remain mixed. Lyons' experience -- which translates to an authority many of the young Wildcats simply won't have -- should be a positive. He should be verbal. He should be a leader. But to what end? Lyons' reputation, earned fairly or not, is as a guy whose personal goals were often just as important as those of his team. What kind of leader will he be? Will he use his experience to benefit all of his teammates? Or will he use it as a bludgeon, a way of remaining unimpeachable with a group of young players? Seeing Lyons as a real, true point guard -- the nerve center of a team, the guy who makes everyone around him better -- feels like a stretch, doesn't it?
I have a hard time believing Arizona coach Sean Miller -- who cut ties with troubled but talented former guard Josiah Turner with minimal hesitation, and is no-nonsense to the core -- will allow that to happen. But until we get to see Arizona in the flesh, and get to see the way Lyons has adapted to his new opportunity, all the platitudes about friendship and vocal leadership won't mean much. We have to see it first.