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Go-to guy? Freshman Josiah Turner earning Sean Miller’s trust

Josiah Turner

Josiah Turner's ability to get to the hoop is one reason why he could succeed in late-game situations. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

It’s been a season-long question. Do the Arizona Wildcats have a go-to guy on offense?

They really don’t.

That was evident in the last game, at Colorado on Saturday. Arizona, down one point, worked the ball around … and worked the ball around … and worked the ball around — hey, somebody take a shot! — before Kevin Parrom ended up with the ball in his hands from behind the 3-point arc for a buzzer-beating shot.

It was an airball.

Not exactly how coach Sean Miller drew it up.

He indicated this week that he is, in a sense, going back to the drawing board in practice.

“I think I have to do a better job of building confidence and who’s going to take the last shot,” Miller said.

Ok, so, who’s going to be taking that last shot?

How about you, Josiah Turner?

The freshman point guard, who seemed lost on the court and in Miller’s doghouse off of it early in the season, has been making steady progress.

In the 11 games since he was left at home for the trip to Florida on Dec. 7 — the discipline serving as the “light coming on moment” for Turner, Miller said — the freshman has regained his starting spot and averaged 7.1 points and 3.0 assists per game.

He doesn’t always shoot a lot, but he has made at least 50 percent of his field goal attempts eight times in the past 11 games. He got to the foul line six times in each game of last week’s road trip.

He is averaging 10 points in the past three games. He’s also been much improved on defense, Miller says.

Don’t nominate him for Freshman All-American honors just yet, but Turner has earned enough of Miller’s trust to climb to the forefront of late-game responsibilities.

The coach is looking for someone who can create on his own and, if nothing else, get fouled.

“Josiah is really developing as one of those key players,” Miller said.

“It’s tough to give the ball to a freshman in that situation, but one of the things I believe with him having the ball is he can get fouled. He can beat his man and also he can make the pass. Although he’s not as good a 3-point shooter as some of the other guys, that might be our best bet moving forward.”

Miller said Turner could be option “1A” for late-game situations. Senior guard Kyle Fogg would be “1B.”

Gone are the days of just throwing the ball to Derrick Williams, or letting Nic Wise and Salim Stoudamire dribble with the ball up top, in position to take their man one-on-one, to use some recent examples. Really gone are the days of the clear-outs for Sean Elliott.

Three of Arizona’s past four games have been toss-ups in the final seconds. There will be plenty more of those in the next several weeks. No doubt, Miller needs a more cohesive approach to the end of games.

Maybe Turner is the answer.

Maybe we’ll find out starting Thursday night against visiting Washington State (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona).

“I’m just comfortable with the ball in my hands at the end of games. I feel like I can get to the line easy,” Turner said. “If he wants to put the ball in my hands at the end of the game, I’ll be comfortable with that.”

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