If Arizona is going to return to the NCAA tournament next season, the Wildcats will have to do it without a true point guard on the roster.
Josiah Turner, the troubled but talented crown jewel of last year's decorated recruiting class, announced Wednesday that he will transfer to another school. It's unclear whether the decision was even Turner's to make considering Arizona coach Sean Miller suspended the freshman point guard indefinitely on the eve of the Pac-12 tournament after his second violation of team rules of the season.
"I learned a lot in my year at Arizona and would like to thank my coaches, teammates and the fans for all of their support," Turner said in a statement.
Hailed as Arizona's next great point guard after he chose the Wildcats over Kansas, UCLA and Louisville among others, Turner struggled on the court and off during a disappointing freshman season. The Sacramento native lost his starting job early in the season and later sat out a game on Dec. 6 for disciplinary reasons, averaging 6.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 29 games.
What was especially disheartening about Turner's March suspension was the freshman appeared to be making some progress during Pac-12 play. He became a regular starter again and showed flashes of the talent that made him such a coveted recruit, posting a career highs of 15 points against USC on Feb. 23 and seven assists against Utah on Feb. 11.
"Josiah is really starting to come on right now," Miller said in January. "No question, he's practicing better. His mind's in the right place. His heart's in the right place. He's trying to win, trying to do the best he can both on and off the court. He deserves a lot of credit for that. He's a really good kid and to me he's learned some good lessons, some valuable lessons. Hopefully the best is yet to come for him."
That it didn't work out the way Miller envisioned leaves Arizona thin at point guard next season despite the highly touted recruiting class set to arrive. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is the heir apparent at the position, but others will have to handle the position next year because he will not be eligible to play until the 2013-14 season.
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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 he could make the fulltime 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.
As a result of the arrival of a frontcourt-heavy recruiting class currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, Arizona will likely begin next season as at least the co-favorite with UCLA to win the Pac-12.
Whether the Wildcats live up to that billing, however, will depend on if the combination of Johnson, Mayes and York can validate those who insist the loss of Turner will be addition by subtraction.