TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona freshman center Sidiki Johnson is no longer part of the Arizona program.
The news came not even 24 hours after UA coach Sean Miller said Johnson "remains suspended" after Arizona defeated Northern Arizona 53-39 on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, Arizona officials released a statement saying Johnson "has left the program with the intention of transferring to another institution."
Where that will be is unknown, although the best guess would be somewhere closer to his native Bronx. Johnson stayed in the area after UA played in New York City two weeks ago and was promptly placed on indefinite suspension three days later.
The news comes as no shock, as the official announcement of his transfer seemed to be a matter of when, not if.
What does it all mean?
It means Sean Miller will have one more scholarship to give down the road to add to Arizonas top-ranked recruiting class for next year. Miller has already signed five players for next season.
It also means that Johnson, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound center who was highly touted as a recruit, wasnt good enough to make any headway on a team desperate for a big man to step forward. At times this season, Johnson looked lumbering and lost, although he was projected to be a big part of Arizonas future near the basket.
Last week, in a win over New Mexico State, Miller said he welcomed any positive contributions from a big man. He was referring to the eight good minutes junior center Kyryl Natyazhko played. A game later, Natyazhko didnt even play, watching from the bench in UAs 53-39 win against Northern Arizona on Saturday.
Such is life for Arizona, where the style of opponent seems to dictate the minutes UAs big men will play. Lets also remember that UA has but two -- the 6-foot-11 Natyazhko and 7-foot fifth-year senior Alex Jacobson, who has played just five minutes so far this season because of back problems and being, frankly, not ready to contribute.
Looking forward, Johnson's loss might not be significant. Arizona will have some help near the basket next year in the form of signee Kaleb Tarczewski, a 7-foot, 220-pound center from Southborough, Mass. Tarczewski is ranked as the No. 20 player overall by Scout.com after averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds per game last year as a junior.
He has real good hands, is physical and loves the low post, Miller said of Tarczewski on national signing day last month. "Part of what he had to learn about us is we can help him expand his game and move him away from the basket. Any time you have a guy like that on defense helps your man-to-man (defense)."
Its very likely UA will now pursue another big man. Miller reportedly has looked at former Tucson Sabino standout Matt Korcheck, a 6-foot-9 power forward who is now playing at Cochise College.
He likes the way we play, and hes going to come watch (Korcheck) again, Cochise coach Jerry Carrillo told the Sierra Vista Herald after Miller went to see Korcheck play last week. "Theyre going to keep evaluating him.
Until then, Arizona must cope with being a young-ish, small-ish team. Jesse Perry is UAs starting center at 6-foot-7. Angelo Chol is the tallest (6-foot-9) among those who get regular but is still learning the center position.
Expect Miller to find his best lineup -- mostly a small one -- and see how far it takes him.
Johnson had returned to Tucson last week after the Thanksgiving holiday but remained on suspension. Miller said at the time that it was best for Johnson to concentrate on academics upon his return to UA. That was likely so Johnson would continue to remain in good academic standing so as to not further harm Arizonas academic progress rate.
Johnson had played a total of seven minutes this season. He had one point and two rebounds.