Allonzo Trier's return makes Arizona a leading candidate for preseason No. 1

Allonzo Trier will return for his junior season. (AP)
Allonzo Trier will return for his junior season. (AP)

Only one day after joking that it would take 20 billion retweets for him to come back to Arizona next season, Allonzo Trier made it clear his return wasn’t quite such a long shot after all.

The sophomore guard announced on Thursday that he will not test the NBA draft process even though he had a chance to be taken in the second round had he come out. Arizona confirmed Trier is instead coming back to the Wildcats next season to try to improve his stock and chase a national title.

“I have thought about it for a while, and I have decided to continue my education and basketball career at Arizona,” Trier told ESPN. “Because of my relationship and faith in Coach [Sean] Miller, the coaching staff and my teammates, I will continue my original goal when I came here — to help lead the team to a national championship.”

The return of Trier makes Arizona a leading candidate to be the preseason No. 1 next fall. The Wildcats will have a nice mix of talent and experience with senior Parker Jackson-Cartwright expected to start at point guard, Trier manning one of the wing spots and 7-foot senior Dusan Ristic and the nation’s second-ranked freshman Deandre Ayton anchoring the frontcourt.

Arizona’s nucleus could get even stronger depending on some decisions that will be made in the coming weeks.

Freshman guard Rawle Alkins, Arizona’s third-leading scorer this past season, declared for the NBA draft earlier this week without hiring an agent, preserving the possibility that he could return to school next year. He’d be an obvious choice to start at wing alongside Trier if he returned.

Arizona is also in heavy pursuit of five-star point guard Trevon Duval and fellow five-star recruit Brian Bowen, a 6-foot-7 small forward also considering Michigan State and Creighton among others. Bowen would be less likely to select the Wildcats if both Alkins and Trier return, but he could be an instant starter if Alkins were to leave.

The future of reserve center Chance Comanche is also unclear. The 7-footer would be a key piece off the bench if he comes back for his junior season, but like Alkins he has declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent.

Regardless of how all of that turns out, Trier’s return gives Arizona a star around which to build.

After missing 19 games due to a PED-related suspension, Trier came back to average 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists while shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-5 sophomore also shared the responsibility of guarding opponents’ top wing scorers along with departing senior Kadeem Allen.

Trier was especially good down the stretch in the regular season when he scored 19 or more points in seven straight games to lead Arizona to a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and the conference tournament championship. He became a little too ball-dominant in the Sweet 16 when the Wildcats squandered a late lead against Xavier and lost when his potential game-winning 3-pointer rimmed out.

As strong as Trier finished this past season, he’ll be a likely preseason All-American candidate and an early threat to win national player of the year — a goal that is clearly already on his mind. He’ll also have a chance to be the centerpiece of a Wildcats team that will try to get Sean Miller to his first Final Four after so many recent near misses.

Five times in Miller’s eight seasons in Tucson, Arizona has advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament without making the Final Four.

With Trier back, next season could be Miller’s best shot yet.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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