The real big baller
Though small in stature, Arizona's Parker Jackson-Cartwright towers above his peers due to his tenacity, character and demeanor heading into a unique senior season
In today’s one-and-done mentality in college basketball, it is rare to see a four or five-year player starting at a program with as much prowess as Arizona. In recent years, Wildcat fans have seen the likes of Kadeem Allen, Kaleb Tarczewski, Gabe York and T.J. McConnell play as seniors in Tucson. And for every senior, there’s always a freshman who leaves school to pursue the NBA, such as Stanley Johnson or Lauri Markkanen.
Yet this year, four players on the Arizona team will be entering their senior year: Parker Jackson-Cartwright,Dusan Ristic, Talbott Denny and Keanu Pinder. It is unclear whether these two will have the chance to make it to the NBA, but for Jackson-Cartwright in particular, there’s a route that could start him on that path.
Almost every year since head coach Sean Miller took over the program, he has had a “glue-guy” in the locker room that assumed the leadership duties. Last year it was Allen, and a couple years before that it was McConnell. This year, that guy figures to be Jackson-Cartwright.
The cases of Allen and McConnell can be applied to Jackson-Cartwright because both players had qualities that made them stick in college basketball, even though they were never dynamic stars.
Both Allen and McConnell are known for their defensive abilities. McConnell was the 2014 and 2015 All-Pac-12 Defensive Team, while Allen made the 2017 All-Pac-12 Defensive Team. That talent is what likely landed them jobs in the NBA, along with their leadership and effort.
Although Jackson-Cartwright is not a defensive stopper, no one questions his leadership or effort.
What makes the Los Angeles native so remarkable is his efficiency. Even after missing time last season due to an ankle sprain, Jackson-Cartwright still managed to finish with career-bests in points per game (5.9), assists per game (4.1) and 3-point percentage (42.3). Arizona’s offense also was noticeably smoother and operated at a better rate when the 5-foot-10 point guard was on the floor.
It was once believed last year that freshman Kobi Simmons would eventually succeed Jackson-Cartwright and Allen to become the team’s point guard; this didn’t come to fruition as both Allen and Jackson-Cartwright outplayed Simmons in essentially every facet during the second half of the season. Whenever Arizona needed a big shot, Parker was always there to send it through the net or find a teammate who finished the job.
Jackson-Cartwright will be the starting point guard to begin the season, providing him a clear chance to prove his worth to Arizona and future employers. The route for Jackson-Cartwright would be to continue to run the Wildcat offense with even better efficiency.
He won’t be asked to shoot the ball a lot, especially with Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton on the court. But with a full season as the team’s top point guard, there’s reason to believe Jackson-Cartwright could be one of the Pac-12’s top ball distributors.
McConnell and Allen have shown that there is a path for Arizona point guards to finish school on a high note and go to the NBA, and now Jackson-Cartwright could be next.
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