Arizona Wildcats freshman center Sidiki Johnson, on indefinite suspension for violations of team policy, will not practice with the team after he returns to Tucson on Sunday, coach Sean Miller said.
Johnson has been home in New York City since Arizona played there in the 2K Sports Classic, losing to Mississippi State in the championship game on Nov. 18.
“He missed only 2 1/2 days of school last week,” Miller said Sunday afternoon. “That was our decision to allow him to stay home. It wasn’t his decision.
“Now, it’s a matter of him working very hard off the court academically, being a good person, being somebody who represents all the characteristics that we want all of our players to have at Arizona and kind of earning his way back into being a part of our team.”
Miller reiterated Sunday what he said after Wednesday night’s loss to San Diego State — he wasn’t optimistic about Johnson’s reinstatement.
But having Johnson finish the semester in good academic standing is important to the team’s score on the Academic Progress Rate should the freshman transfer at the break.
Johnson (6-8, 235 pounds) has played in three games, totaling one point and two rebounds in seven minutes.
“Sidiki Johnson is someone from a physical perspective — rebounding, giving us quality minutes, developing as our season grows — who we were really counting on to complement the big guys that we already have,” Miller said.
“Him not being with us is not a positive. We’ll find out in the next week or so if he remains with us. If he does, hopefully he can contribute down the line. … To me, the depth inside took a little hit there.”
Arizona’s center position remains the team’s most troubled spot, with undersized power forward Jesse Perry spending maybe about a third of his playing time at center.
For now, Johnson is not available. Senior Alex Jacobson has battled back problems and is someone who can contribute only limited minutes when healthy. Angelo Chol, who was moved from power forward, is promising. Miller says “the best is yet to come” with Chol, but there are still growing pains.
And then there is junior starter Kyryl Natyazhko, who is averaging 1.5 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game.
“To this point, he has not gotten the job done,” Miller said.
Arizona plays at New Mexico State on Tuesday night.