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Arizona Republic: Arizona’s Mayes up for challenge

Jordin Mayes drives to the basket against Duke's Kyrie Irving in the NCAA Sweet 16. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Here is the lead to this week’s Pac-12 Insider column from the Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller, who gives us a healthy dose of basketball amid the start of football camps. Click for the rest of the Haller’s notes from the Arizona Republic.

By Doug Haller

In perhaps the biggest off-season of his career, Jordin Mayes wears a protective boot on his left foot. He walks with crutches.

The Arizona sophomore point guard had started experiencing pain in last season’s NCAA Tournament, but decided to play through it. Once the season ended, the discomfort never subsided. Eventually, a stress fracture was diagnosed, and Mayes had surgery earlier this summer.

“We’re taking precautions with it, but the recovery process is going real well,” Mayes said. “It’s feeling fine. I should get off the crutches and off the boot in (less than) two weeks. Then after that, I’ll get back on the court and see what I can do then.”

The start of the season isn’t believed to be in jeopardy: Mayes expects to be back on the court in September. Still, the injury came at a bad time. Even with MoMo Jones gone, transferring to Iona, Mayes will have to compete for minutes in a crowded Arizona backcourt. Shooting guards Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender join Mayes and freshmen Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson. Wing Kevin Parrom also will contribute.

Turner, one of the top point guards of the 2011 class, is expected to take over the offense.

“No, it doesn’t really concern me,” Mayes said of his lost improvement time. “It is true that players get better in the offseason, but even though I am in the boot, I’m still in the weight room, working out my upper body. I’m getting bigger and stronger. As far as being on the court, I can’t do anything yet, but we still have a few months before the season starts so I’ll be good.”

Mayes averaged 4.9 points and 1.2 assists in 14.3 minutes as a freshman. His effective field-goal percentage, which takes into account the extra value of a 3-pointer, was 56.9 percent, which trailed only Washington’s Scott Suggs among Pac-10 guards.

Unlike most freshmen, Mayes got stronger as the season progressed. He made 10 consecutive 3-pointers during a five-game stretch bridging the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments. Against Texas in the NCAA Tournament’s second round, Mayes scored a season-high 16 points, hitting 6 of 7 shots.

Overall, Arizona outscored three of four NCAA Tournament opponents when Mayes was on the floor.

*Against Memphis, the Wildcats were plus 6.

*Against Texas, they were plus 20.

*Against Duke they were plus 4.

“Coach (Sean Miller) just stayed in my head the whole year,” Mayes said. “He had confidence in me. After each game he told me I was a big factor on this team, so I knew if I had his trust and confidence I could just go out and just play my game and produce.”

Once he’s healthy, Mayes insists his approach won’t change. If people think Turner is Arizona’s future point guard, so be it. He knows what matters.

“Everything outside of the gym, outside of practice, outside of coach’s office, doesn’t really faze me,” he said. “We know that no spot is reserved right now. Everybody’s going to have to compete at practice and with conditioning and in the weight room. It’s all competitive. We’re all going to find out who’s going to start and who doesn’t when practice starts.”

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