Pitts playing in the shadows for Arizona Wildcats basketball
Before there was Aaron Gordon and even before there was Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona’s 2013 recruiting class began with the 6-foot-5, 180 pound Elliott Pitts.
While reporters rushed to meet with Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson during media basketball day last week, freshman shooting guard Pitts sat in his foldout chair, legs crossed, on the far side of the gym waiting for someone, anyone, to approach him.
“Today has been interesting,” Pitts said with a chuckle an hour into media day. “College has so far been mostly everything I expected and some.”
On August 12, 2012 Pitts committed to Arizona, choosing the UA over conference rival Washington, historic Georgetown and his local school, Cal.
Ryan Revock / The Daily Wildcat UA Guard, Elliot Pitts, speaks with the media on the UA basketball media day on Wednesday.
The consensus four-star recruit’s decision was followed by Hollis-Jefferson’s and a few months down the road, Gordon joined to form what many have called head coach Sean Miller’s most talented recruiting class ever.
“Elliot has shown a great attitude,” Miller said. “And his best days are ahead of him. That doesn’t mean he’s not a good player now. But when you’re going to see the best of Elliott Pitts, it’s not going to be this season.”
Pitts comes to Tucson from prestigious De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif. While in high school, Pitts, who was ranked as the No. 18 shooting guard by ESPN, was scouted as an above average shooter who rarely forced the issue.
Though he was highly touted, Pitts’ gravity paled in comparison to that of Hollis-Jefferson and Gordon, who were YouTube sensations by the time they were 16.
Pitts’ videos of his step-back jumpers, flashy passes, and athletic drives to a layup were well-liked, but Gordon’s half-court 180-degree alley-oop dunk over a defender was all the rage.
“I played with Aaron [Gordon] eighth and ninth grade year so we know each other pretty well,” Pitts said. “He’s a one-of-a-kind. Impressive – happy we’re teammates again and not opponents.”
Pitts said that when he chose Arizona he had no insight to Gordon or Hollis-Jefferson’s decisions to come as well. Pitts made the choice not knowing whether he was going to be the golden star or the “other guy”, but he said he believed in Miller.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be the only recruit but I obviously wanted to go to a winning program and one where I thought I could make an impact but also improve as a basketball player,” Pitts said.
It’s early, but also safe to assume Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson will find a way into multiple Wildcat rotations early in the season. Where Miller sees Pitts fitting in might take some time.
Miller admitted at the press conference that this year’s team lacks depth. Instead of averaging around 10 players a game as they did last season, this year’s Arizona team will run only eight deep. With Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson being cornerstone, Pitts is not factored into that group of eight.
“Whatever coach wants from me, I’m going to give him and my team that and some more,” Pitts said.
Pitts’ freshman season could be compared to that of fellow guard Gabe York.
The current sophomore was a highly recruited prospect coming out of high school but was a low point of the 2012 recruiting class that featured Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and current Oklahoma City Thunder player Grant Jerrett.
“Elliott will find his place as the season goes on,” York said. “He wouldn’t be here if coach didn’t think he could play a role.”
As a freshman, York spent more time sitting on the bench than the rest of the recruits, only playing in 15 of the Wildcats’ 35 games. It wasn’t until the end of the season that York established a spot on the roster. But now the guard is expected to play a pivotal role for Arizona.
For now, Pitts appears comfortable in the shadows of Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson. He might have committed to Arizona first, but he likely won’t be the first to leave. Pitts is in Tucson for the long haul and said he knows his time will come.
“I don’t know where my spot will be on this team in March,” Pitts said. “All I can control is today. And I’m pretty happy with where I’m at but I of course want to get better and help the team as much as coaches need me to.”
— Follow Luke Della @LukeDella