‘Trust the process’: Tommy Lloyd optimistic about future of Arizona men’s basketball

It was quite the debut season for Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd, who was named the Associated Press’ men’s basketball coach of the year on April, and he has high expectations for the 2022-23 season as well. (Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – A year to the day he was hired as Arizona men’s basketball coach, Tommy Lloyd found himself reminiscent about the journey.

“It’s been a little bit of an adventure,” the former Gonzaga assistant said. “It’s been humbling at times and I’ve been able to reflect a little bit since the season’s been over. I’m excited to do it again.”

In his first season, the Wildcats finished 33-4, winning both the Pac-12 regular season title and the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament. They were ranked the No. 1 seed in the south region, where they would eventually lose to Houston in the regional semifinal.

Lloyd admitted that he didn’t envision a year ago that the Wildcats would have the season they had. He enjoyed watching his team progress and the individual improvement by his players.

Now that their season is over, the Wildcats will look toward next season and attempt to field a team that will contend for a national championship again.

“I think we’re going to have a really good roster next year,” Lloyd said. “I think we’ll be extremely competitive and I’m excited about that.”

Arizona’s roster will look different in 2022-23. Among the changes: Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin declared for the NBA Draft on social media Wednesday.

“We knew the track he was on,” Lloyd said. “Ben and I communicated openly all year about everything. He’s an awesome dude, a great young man and I’m really thankful that he decided to stay here. I think he had a good experience, and I had a great experience coaching him.”

Along with Mathurin, the Wildcats have other players who could also test the NBA waters, including Christian Koloko, Azuolas Tubelis and Dalen Terry. Lloyd doesn’t know what their decisions are going to be, but he said he will respect their choices.

The Wildcats currently have one recruit in the Class of 2022, and that’s four-star center Dylan Anderson, a 7-foot center for Gilbert Perry High School.

“I think he’s really talented and fits our culture,” Lloyd said. “Stylistically, I think he’s going to be a really good big here. He has a little toughness and physicality about him that I’ve really seen develop this past year. I think he’s going to make a huge impact over the course of his career.”

For next season, the Wildcats want to improve in multiple areas, including the coaching staff.

“Everybody’s got to get better individually and the coaching staff has to take a step forward,” Lloyd said. “That’s where your first area of improvement is, just improving your personnel.”

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Lloyd added that it also depends on how the roster ends up looking toward the end of the offseason. Although he didn’t think the Wildcats were a soft team, he mentioned that the last few games of the season were very physical. Lloyd said that he would like to see the team for next season find ways to be more physical to matchup with teams like Houston.

While Lloyd understands the challenges that the program will face this offseason, he feels good about the state of the program going forward and will look at all options that are available.

“For me, the number one options available are always the guys currently on the team,” Lloyd said. “My favorite players are the ones on our roster and you try to help them figure out what they’re going to do. Then I try to fill the gaps accordingly. It’s honestly just navigating things day to day and trying to make the best decisions you can for the program.”

Lloyd had a simple message for Arizona fans about the future of the program.

“Trust the process,” Lloyd said. “I think we’re in great shape. I love where we’re at.”

Garrie Ester Gare-ree Eh-str
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Garrie Ester expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Ester, who has completed the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at ASU, is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.