Less than two weeks after Josiah Turner's transfer left Arizona without a point guard on its roster for next season, the Wildcats may have unexpectedly uncovered a potential solution.
Mark Lyons, Xavier's second-leading scorer the past two years, intends to transfer and will become eligible immediately if he finishes his degree this spring, CBSSports.com first reported on Sunday. Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith said via email Monday morning that Arizona, Kentucky and Kansas are among the schools that called or texted Sunday to express "very preliminary interest."
Adding a scoring and playmaking combo guard for one season would be a boost to all three of those programs, but it's Arizona that may have the greatest need for Lyons. While Kentucky needs guard depth besides Archie Goodwin and NC State transfer Ryan Harrow, and Kansas could use a point guard to spell Elijah Johnson, Arizona lacks a proven player to handle that position until Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell becomes eligible in 2013.
Junior-to-be Jordin Mayes is a combo guard who started in place of Turner at times this past season and has the most experience running the point on next year's roster. Fellow combo guard Nick Johnson played sparingly at point guard as well last season and could make the full-time transition to the position over the summer. Six-foot-1 shooting guard recruit Gabe York also has limited point guard experience in case of an emergency.
In addition to the need Arizona has at the position and the one vacant scholarship it has to offer, the connections between coach Sean Miller and Lyons could make the Wildcats tough to beat. It was Miller who recruited Lyons to Xavier before he left to take over the Arizona program in 2009.
Although Lyons certainly isn't the pure pass-first point guard that McConnell is or that Turner was supposed to be, his impact could still be enough to vault the Wildcats into the role of clear-cut Pac-12 favorite. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 15.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists last season for the Musketeers, but he was suspended two games for his role in the Cincinnati brawl and reportedly clashed with coach Chris Mack enough that it wasn't entirely his choice to leave Xavier.
Regardless, Lyons will clearly be a coveted transfer for elite programs in search of a scoring guard to bolster their backcourts. And he'd be an especially worthwhile gamble for an Arizona team short on backcourt depth but long on potential.