Freshman point guard Josiah Turner did not start Sunday against Ball State. That didn’t seem to be much of a big deal, considering Jordin Mayes started the last game and scored 19 points.
The first sign that something was amiss came in the first few minutes, as freshman Nick Johnson came in the game, not as a shooting guard but as a point guard alongside Kyle Fogg.
In fact, there was no Turner for the entire game.
He wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t suspended. Call it a coach’s decision.
Call it coach Sean Miller delivering a message.
“We care a lot about Josiah. It’s not like he’s a bad kid. He’s a great kid,” Miller said after Arizona’s 73-63 victory over Ball State at McKale Center.
“He’s trying to find his way from where he left high school … 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.”
And they probably don’t want to have that feeling again.
Turner was the most highly touted of Arizona’s four freshmen, but none of that matters now. Miller even went on a rant a few weeks ago about websites and such that proclaim certain recruits to be one-and-done players to the NBA. Turner has been included among those with that kind of talent, and he has received plenty of preseason freshman accolades.
Key word: Preseason.
Turner started both exhibitions and the season opener against Valparaiso, but he has looked out of control at times. He wasn’t able to finish drives to the hoop and his jumper certainly wasn’t falling. He was 1 of 7 from the field through two games, including 0 of 3 from 3-point range.
“I hope we can get him in the fold and he can develop,” Miller said.
“We’re trying to help him. Hopefully, he can help himself and keep working and get back out there.”
Miller pointed to freshman center Sidiki Johnson as an example. Johnson has been in the doghouse while working on his practice habits and poor on-court decisions. Johnson played four minutes in the second half Sunday; not a lot, but consider that he played only one total minute in the first two games.
One of the first things Johnson did Sunday was chase down an offensive rebound and go up strong to the basket.
That’s more like it.
“He is getting better and it was nice to put him in there,” Miller said.
“We went through the same thing with him (as with Turner). Everybody anoints young players as they’re going to be in college for a year or two. Each one of these guys has their own process to work through.”
Nick Johnson, who moved from shooting guard to backup point guard without much notice, did a credible job. He played 24 minutes, sometimes playing with Mayes, and scored nine points. He had one assist and two turnovers.
Previously, Miller said he did not want to burden Johnson with having to learn two positions this early in his career.
“It’s a transition, definitely,” Johnson said.
“Basically, that was the first time I ever played it. AAU ball doesn’t really count. … I want to be on the court and help my team, so I told Coach I wanted to try to play the two positions. I stressed to him I think I can handle it.”
If nothing else, Arizona now has more position flexibility with Nick Johnson being able to play the point.
As for how much and how much longer, that might depend on how Turner responds.