Cover photo: Arizona Wildcats point guard Kerr Kriisa attempts to hype up the crowd during the PAC-12 tournament.
Cover photo credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA TODAY Sports
I'm going to start this week's column with a disclaimer: I am primarily a football guy. I know football pretty well, and I usually have a pretty strong grasp on what I'm looking at when it comes to players and teams. Now of course, I could be completely exposed if I were to discuss some of my takes with someone who plays or thinks about football for a living, but for now, I feel pretty good about it. Basketball is another story. I never watch the NBA except the Suns in the playoffs. Maybe I would if Bally Sports wasn't the worst thing to ever happen to American media, but Bally Sports is a thing, so I can't watch much NBA basketball anyway. I enjoy watching some college basketball on the weekends, but not a lot. I never miss an Arizona basketball game, though. With that said, I do spend a lot of the games I do watch wondering why that was a foul, why that wasn't, trying to remember how the bonus system works, etc. I do have an above-baseline understanding of a lot of it though, but most importantly, I have a set of functioning eyes. That means that I can see what is going on on the floor. So, as a person who understands basketball at an above-baseline level but not a deeper level in the way I understand football, you can only imagine my confusion at Arizona Wildcats point guard Kerr Kriisa. When I watch him, I see a player that is an obvious liability to his team where everyone else seems to see a superstar.
There are two kinds of players in any sport that jump off the television screen to the untrained eye: amazing players, and terrible players. The average viewer will not be able to identify the gritty, first one in-last one out, sneaky athletic types. You know who I'm talking about. Cooper Kupp, Hunter Renfrow, Gunner Olszewski...
But in all seriousness, casual fans won't be able to identify the guys who excel at their role, who battle it out in the trenches, and do all the little things right without making any of the big, flashy plays. That is perfectly ok, by the way. That arguably makes taking in sports more enjoyable.
Who they will notice, however, are the amazing players and the terrible players. Let's look at the Kansas City Chiefs for example. Any person who barely watches football will be able to tell you that that Mahomes guy looks really good. On the other hand, they'll also be able to ask you why that wide receiver was wide open on that touchdown. Then Dan Sorenson will enter the frame, and it will become obvious.
I don't think that Kerr Kriisa is terrible, but I'm also slightly more knowledgeable than a casual basketball fan. That makes Kerr Kriisa slightly better than terrible. I struggle to even say that though, because unlike some athletes (*ahem* Dan Sorenson), I don't think that Kriisa is a low-skill or low-ceiling player. Many of his shortfalls seem mental, and like they could be easily solved with some extra work here, some humbling there, etc. I doubt that any of that will happen though, as Kriisa almost certainly believes none of that.
So what is it then that makes Kriisa's play jump off the screen? First, he is a turnover machine. He has 2.2 turnovers a game, which is the second most among all starting point guards in the PAC-12 (obligatory ASU slander, Sun Devils point guard Marreon Jackson is the only starter with more). 2.2 turnovers a game is also good for seventh worst in the conference among all players. This is all in a conference that, to put it lightly, is not exactly known for its elite basketball.
Not only does he turn the ball over all the time in a way that shows up on the stats sheet, but he also does it in ways that don't. Kriisa has attempted 270 shots this season, but he has only made 98 of them. That is good for a field goal percentage of 36.3%, which is the third worst among starting point guards in the conference. Of those 172 shots he's missed, how many of them do you think he didn't have his feet set in a good position to take the shot? He almost never does have his feet set by the way, as he often takes rushed, ill-timed, and off-platform shots. Also, of the 172 shots, how many do you think were rebounded by the other team and went the other way for a score? Probably a lot. How many of those 172 shots do you think were his second, or perhaps even third shot of the possession? Definitely more than you might think.
So he's not great at offense, but what about his defense? That has to be good right? Wrong. He has 0.6 steals per game, which ranks seventh among the eight players on Arizona's team that play meaningful minutes. This is bad, but it becomes even worse when you realize that every other starting point guard in the conference ranks at least in the top three on their team in steals per game. Most of the time, they are the outright leader.
So, let's recap. Kerr Kriisa is a turnover machine, although he never takes the ball from the other team (his steal to turnover ratio is tied for third worst in the conference among all players). This is compounded by his poor shot selection and his abysmal field goal percentage. Despite these statistics, he has the personality of someone who is a decades-long superstar. He trash talks the other team, opposing fans, and members of the media (that's if he's not throwing articles of clothing at them) relentlessly. His personality makes all of this so much more annoying. If he was just bad, it would be one thing. But he isn't. He's bad and obnoxious.
So, do I have you convinced that Arizona's golden boy might not be worth all of the hype? Well, if the answer is yes, I have good news. The news' name is Kylan Boswell, and he's the number two ranked 2023 point guard prospect in the country according to 247Sports. 2023 would normally be irrelevant, as we would have to sit through all of next season with Kriisa anyway. Well, luckily, it looks like Boswell will be reclassifying to 2022. If that is to happen, what happens to our old friend Kerr Kriisa? The first thing that comes to mind is that I might not have to hear the story about how he was named after Steve Kerr anymore. After hearing it twice a game every game for two seasons, I think we've all heard it enough. That, of course, would require him to transfer, which I think he could if Boswell reclassifies. Boswell is a great talent, and I see him getting a lot of minutes right out of the gate. This does not seem like something Kriisa would be ok with in the slightest. If he is ok with it, then I assume we would see less and less of Kriisa throughout the season. Doesn't sound so bad to me.
Before I finish, let me get something straight: I don't hate Kerr Kriisa. I want him to succeed, and I really think he could if he got his attitude right. His success means the success of Arizona, and that is obviously something I want. What's more important than that though is that he's still a human being, and I want what is best for his life and career. I don't wish him failure or celebrate when he turns the ball over or cheer when he misses a shot. I want him to be successful and go on and have a career playing the game he loves. With that said, it can be hard watching him play to the crowd and be arrogant to the media knowing that his play does not support his inflated ego. Those kinds of players are often looked at as jokes, and yet, Arizona fans and the national media think he's fantastic. It makes me wonder if I'm missing something. Honestly though, I try not to get too worried about that. Whenever I start to feel that way, I just turn on an Arizona basketball game and wait for Kriisa to set up for a shot. It's at that point that I'm usually reminded what missing looks like.