Arizona basketball earns high marks on report card
Point guard: A
In his first season with Arizona, junior transfer T.J. McConnell has been the glue that has turned the Wildcats into a top defensive and offensive team. His 6.8 assists per game, combined with his high efficiency on the defensive side, has UA fans preparing for a long tournament run.
While senior Jordin Mayes doesn’t have the offensive stats that some of his teammates have compiled, Mayes has been a strong defensive presence off the bench and his veteran leadership should continue to shine.
Shooting guard: A
Ryan Revock / The Daily Wildcat UA junior guard T.J. McConnell drives the ball past UNLV defenders towards the basket on Saturday in the McKale Center.
Junior Nick Johnson came into the season as one of the nation’s best defensive players. But the athletic shooting guard has clearly improved his offensive game by becoming more versatile and consistent with his shooting overall.
Small Forward: B
Freshman Aaron Gordon might not be putting up the statistics that Duke freshman Jabari Parker or Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins are, but his time and the game will eventually come to him. For now, the 18-year-old is a proven commodity by being the most athletic player on the court.
Power Forward: A-
The player most improved from last season has been sophomore power forward Brandon Ashley. He’s been an efficient post player on offense with an improving mid range and 3-point shot. His play has also been noticeably stronger, as he is clearly more comfortable on the court in his second year of college.
Starting center Kaleb Tarczewski’s size has covered up a lack of depth at the front-court. But the starting sophomore and 7-foot center is still a work in progress. Tarczewski showed commitment to the program over the summer by losing weight and getting in better basketball shape, which has allowed him to stay on the court longer and mask the Wildcats’ depth problem.
Arizona’s bench so far has really only featured three consistent players: small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and guards Gabe York and Mayes.
Hollis-Jefferson, a freshman, has been a pleasant surprise for how quickly he’s adapted to the college game. The 6-foot-7 forward has also helped cover up the lack of depth by being able to play multiple positions, small forward and power forward, but also showed the ability to play shooting guard when asked, such as against Duke on Nov. 29.
Good things happen when Hollis-Jefferson enters the game, and if he can continue to improve, Arizona will only get stronger.
York’s strength has always been his scoring. Whether it is shooting from long range or driving to the hoop, opposing defenses have to keep a close eye on the sophomore when he comes into the game, as he is capable of quietly scoring 20 points. While his defense was a concern last year, it’s less of one now. However, if he can’t stay strong on the defensive end, he will lose playing time in games where he has a cold hand, which will hurt the Wildcats as it will force head coach Sean Miller to play starters for longer minutes.
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella