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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Arizona has long-term point guard plans

By Eamonn Brennan

Arizona freshman point guard Josiah Turner arrived at the school under a heap of hype. He was the No. 15-ranked player in the country, and the No. 3-ranked point guard (behind only Kentucky's Marquis Teague and Texas' Myck Kabongo), and he and fellow touted recruit Nick Johnson were supposed to fill the void -- in so far as the void was fillable -- left behind when forward Derrick Williams took his immense talents to the NBA. At the very least, Turner was the Wildcats' point guard, and likely star, of the future. That much seemed certain.

Josiah Turner
Will PG Josiah Turner be able to effectively lead a talent-rich Arizona squad next season?
A year later, very little about Turner seems certain. Turner was largely unproductive in his freshman campaign, and that's when he was on the court; just as often, Arizona coach Sean Miller was benching or suspending Turner for one team rules violation or another. Turner started 16 of the Wildcats' final 17 regular-season games -- a sign of progress -- before Miller suspended him again, this time indefinitely, leaving Turner behind despite the Wildcats' need to win the Pac-12 tournament for an automatic NCAA tourney bid. Turner stayed home, Arizona didn't make the NCAA tournament -- there is some degree of causation in there -- and the freshman's once-promising Arizona career now appears fully in doubt.

Which is why Arizona's news of the day is resoundingly good. On Tuesday, former Duquesne point guard T.J. McConnell announced he would transfer to Tucson for the remaining two years of his career, which will begin in 2013-14 after the customary one-year transfer purgatory, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday.

Why is this such good news? Because Turner's future is just about the only uncertain part of Arizona's next two seasons. Miller has landed a talent-packed 2012 class, featuring four ESPNU top 100 players, three of which -- center Kaleb Tarczewski and power forwards Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley -- are five-star talents ranked among the top three players at their respective positions. Combined with Johnson, the Wildcats will have one of the most talented teams in the country in 2012-13 and (depending on NBA defections or unforeseen circumstances) in 2013-14. The only thing missing is a quality point guard, at least right now. Which is where McConnell -- who averaged 11.4 points, 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, with efficient shooting numbers, comes in.

McConnell won't be available right away, of course, and Arizona may still be better off seeing if it can get Turner to (ahem) turn his career around. But it's clear Miller is less concerned about a one-off growth year than he is a long-term shot at a national title -- which is exactly what he's rather rapidly built in Tucson.

Turner or no Turner, if the young Wildcats make a run in 2012-13, great. Wee! Fun! But 2013-14 is the season it all comes together. That's the plan, anyway.