For the last 50 days, the Star has been counting down the 50 best athletes on Arizona’s campus. It started with a women’s basketball player (Kat Wright) and will end with a men’s basketball player — star wing Allonzo Trier — at the top.
After considering the criteria for this list — past accomplishments, importance to the team and a projection of what they might accomplish this season — Trier stood ahead of the pack, though a case certainly could be made for the top slot going to No. 2 (softball’s Jessie Harper) or No. 3 (track and field’s Justice Summerset).
In the end, it was Trier’s potential — he has a legitimate shot at national player of the year and All-American honors, and he’ll be key to Arizona’s potential return to the Final Four — that won out.No. 1: Allonzo Trier
The details: Trier is a 6-foot-5-inch, 205-pound shooting guard from Seattle entering his junior season at Arizona. Trier came to Arizona from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, a high school basketball powerhouse that also produced Arizona alumni Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley. Trier averaged 26.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his lone season at Findlay, and the team went 29-3. Trier scored 17 points in the McDonald’s All-American game and was named MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic after scoring 28 points. Trier was rated a 5-star recruit by all the major recruiting websites, and Scout.com pegged him the 20th-best recruit in the nation. Trier chose the Wildcats over Kansas, Connecticut, UCLA and Louisville.
The numbers: Trier averaged 14.8 points per game as a freshman, but missed seven games in Pac-12 play after injuring his hand in a four-overtime game against USC. Trier missed the first half of his sophomore season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
He later said that the positive test came because he was unknowingly given a banned substance by a “well-intentioned but misguided” person after suffering an injury.
He returned in January and led the Wildcats with a 17.2-points-per-game scoring average the rest of the season. He finished his sophomore season with improvements in rebounds (from 3.3 per game to 5.3 per game), assists (1.1 per game to 2.7 per game), 3-pointers made (1.5 per game to 1.9 per game) and 3-point percentage (36.4 percent to 39.1).
The value: Most expected Trier to leave Arizona after two seasons.
Trier surprised many when he announced his return, and the Wildcats immediately catapulted to preseason top-5 projections. Trier joins fellow returner Rawle Alkins on a team that includes the nation’s top-ranked incoming freshman, DeAndre Ayton.
Why Trier? There are several reasons that Trier chose to return, from his desire to post better numbers to winning a national championship and improving his NBA Draft stock.
With Trier back, Arizona’s expectations are now supercharged.
Without Trier, Arizona was a Pac-12 title contender. With him, they could compete for a national championship.
Proof he’s good: Trier was the team’s most-consistent scoring option after returning from the suspension. Trier said he never felt like he was able to reach what he was capable of in that limited time, but he scored 22 points in a win against Stanford, shooting 12 of 12 free throws; in a three-game stretch against Washington, USC and UCLA, he averaged 24.7 points per game; and in Arizona’s Sweet 16 loss to Xavier, he scored 15 straight points for the Wildcats to keep them in the game.
What Trier can accomplish: If Trier continues to improve the way he did between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he’ll be a favorite for Pac-12 Player of the Year and could be a prime candidate for All-American honors. UA coach Sean Miller might look to Trier to become Arizona’s shut-down defender now that Kadeem Allen is in the NBA.
He said it: “Me and Kadeem shared that role last year, and slowly as I progressed in my freshman year and in the middle to the end of the season (last year), that was my role, too.
“Especially when we played bigger. I feel comfortable with it regardless. I guarded Lonzo Ball last year, Markelle Fultz, all those things.
“Anybody you throw in front of me, I’ll be ready.” — Trier, on his defense