TUCSON Arizona added depth to its basketball roster on Tuesday. Size wasnt part of the deal.
The Wildcats could use it, though. Size, that is, particularly with UCLA and USC coming up this weekend in southern California.
First up is UCLA and 6-foot-10, 300-pound Josh Smith in the annual John Wooden Classic on Thursday night (9 p.m., MST) at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
UAs Jesse Perry, who will get the primary assignment of defending him, likes the fact that its a big game. Now, if Arizonas big men can step up.
At least theres been a challenge made within teammates. Without prompting after Arizonas win over Arizona State on Saturday, Solomon Hill said, we need better things for Kyryl (Natyazhko) and from Angelo (Chol).
UA coach Sean Miller echoed Hill and included seldom-used 7-footer Alex Jacobson in that group for good measure.
Last season, Arizona couldnt contain Smith as he scored 17 points and had four rebounds in a 71-49 whitewashing. It was Arizonas most miserable moment last season. The Wildcats couldnt stop UCLAs Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt, either.
Honeycutt left UCLA to go to the NBA. Hes now in the NBDL. Nelson was dismissed from the team by Coach Ben Howland last month after a troubled start. Hes now reportedly playing in Lithuania.
The further the better for Arizona, but it doesnt mean itll be easy. It hasnt been for Arizona all season when it comes to competing against bigger, stronger teams. Gonzaga, Mississippi State and Florida (all losses) are front and center.
Perry, who gives up three inches and 83 pounds against Smith, is taking it as a challenge thats going to be fun.
The fun might come from Arizonas ability to run or at least attempt at it. Arizona figures the best way to negate UCLAs size in Smith, 6-10 Anthony Stover and the Wear twins (David and Travis, both 6-10), is do what it does best: get out on transition.
Josh Smith is going to guard me, Perry said. Ill try to get him up and down the floor.
The mismatch works both ways. UCLA coach Ben Howland said playing Arizona is like playing against five guards, and guard play has not been the Bruins' strength.
Once the Wildcats are done with UCLA, their next challenge comes Sunday afternoon against USC. The Trojans have a pair of 7-footers in Dewayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk and will do everything they can slow the pace and make use of every possession.
Arizona will try to counter both opponents with quickness and effectiveness. But a slow start, which has plagued the Wildcats throughout the early part of their schedule, would make it hard for them to dictate the pace against either team.
UCLA's Smith is especially problematic because his physical style of play causes foul problems for opponents, which explains why Arizona might need every available big man.
(Smith) is very difficult to deal with, Miller said. Hes such a dominant player when he gets the ball deep.
Energy and togetherness will be Arizonas way to go. Perry said a little help-side defense wont hurt.
Sometimes you have to give up things to make the post a better position, Perry said.
As for the added depth? Well, Miller announced Quinton Crawford and Drew Mellon are now part of the team as walk-ons and will help during practice situations.
Crawford, a 6-1 junior guard, played two seasons at Middlesex County College in Edison, N.J. Mellon is a 6-5 freshman forward from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. He was the Monarchs' team captain as a senior in 2010-11, helping the squad to a 32-3 record and the California Division I state championship.
Neither are expected to contribute in games.