A week-and-a-half into Tommy Lloyd’s tenure as Arizona’s new men’s basketball head coach, the Wildcats’ expected roster for the 2021-22 season is beginning to take shape.
Or so it seems.
Last week Gonzaga transfer Oumar Ballo announced he would follow Lloyd to Arizona, while Kerr Kriisa and Bennedict Mathurin each announced they would return to Tucson for another year.
On Friday James Akinjo committed to Baylor, officially ending any speculation that he might remain a Wildcat. Freshman forward Daniel Batcho entered the transfer portal days before Lloyd was hired, and it would be a major surprise to see the Frenchman stick it out at Arizona.
Add in the decommitment of Arizona signee KJ Simpson plus the transfers of Ira Lee, Jemarl Baker Jr. and Terrell Brown Jr.—not to mention the brief time Eastern Washington transfer Kim Aiken was set to join the team, only to instead commit to Washington State—and it’s easy to lose track of the program’s scholarship situation.
As a reminder, Division I men’s basketball programs are allocated 13 scholarships annually. Counting Arizona’s present roster plus signees Shane Nowell and Shane Dezonie, the Wildcats’ current count for next season comes out to 11.
Here is a breakdown by position:
- PG: Kerr Kriisa (So.)
- SG: Dalen Terry (So.)/Shane Nowell (Fr.)/Shane Dezonie (Fr.)
- SF: Bennedict Mathurin (So.)
- PF: Azuolas Tubelis (So.)/Jordan Brown (Jr.)/Tautvilas Tubelis (So.)/Tibet Gorener (So.)
- C: Christian Koloko (Jr.)/Oumar Ballo (So.)
Of course, it’s quite possible that at least one or more of Arizona’s returning scholarship players decides to transfer. Gorener stands out as the most likely candidate to leave considering he saw action in just eight games last year.
Arizona could realistically be in need of filling three more scholarships for next season, possibly four or five depending on how Nowell and Dezonie’s decisions shake out.
That’s an awful lot of open spots this late into the spring, but this is no normal offseason. Earlier this month the NCAA Division I Council adopted a one-time transfer rule that allows athletes to switch schools without losing a year of eligibility.
Fall and winter sport athletes have until July 1 to enter the portal and maintain immediate eligibility, which means rosters will be in flux through early summer.
Whether Arizona is one of those schools to hit up the transfer portal for incoming talent remains to be seen. Lloyd and his staff might prioritize recruiting high schoolers who would enter with several more years of eligibility than a potential transfer.
One of those recruits Arizona is clearly after is TyTy Washington, a 6-foot-3 point guard from Chandler. Washington was in Tucson over the weekend, where he was spotted attending football’s Spring Game with members of the basketball team.
Arizona hasn’t been directly tied to any other prospects under Lloyd’s watch, so it will be fascinating to see where the staff goes to fill up the remaining scholarship spots.
The Wildcats will save room for multiple walk-ons, as well. One of those spots is going to Will Reeves, a 6-foot-3 guard out of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane. Reeves averaged 9.1 points in 2019-2020 for the Bullpups, where he was teammates with Lloyd’s son Liam.
Excited to announce I have committed to walk on the basketball team for The University of Arizona. I want to thank my family and friends who have supported me and Coach Lloyd for the opportunity. Bear Down!! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/7SrSk2Tcgt
— Will Reeves (@willreeves65) April 26, 2021
The Wildcats could return walk-ons Jordan Mains and Grant Weitman. They’d be joined by Will Menaugh, a 6-foot-10 forward out of Catalina Foothills High School.