How a team handles its shortcomings and makes adjustments from one year to the next distinguishes the elite from the good. For Arizona men’s basketball, this fact is no different.
“We always try to look back to the [previous] year,” UA men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller said. “What could we have done better as a team? What are some things individually that we have to challenge individual players to get better at?”
Miller said a couple years ago, there was a lot of conversation with Nick Johnson on getting better inside the arc by being able to make 2-pointers and shoot a variety of different shots, such as floaters and runners, and being able to score with both hands. He explained that while Johnson’s quest was always to become a better shooter from 3-point range, what made him great last year was how he became such a great 2-point shooter — and that’s what led him to be an All-American.
Junior shooting guard Gabe York seems to be on a path similar to Johnson’s, improving significantly in areas of the game that could lead to a more complete game and a breakout season.
Miller said York was an important part of last year’s team, sometimes even more so than he realized. He said he believes York is poised to take the next step to be able to score in a variety of ways and help fill the void left by Johnson’s NBA departure.
“What we need most is for me to be a complete basketball player,” York said. “It’s been two years. From freshman to sophomore year, I had to make the adjustment defensively, and this year, it was about working on offense. It’s time for me to be able to step into that role and become a complete scorer.”
York said that over the past summer, he made it a point to get in the gym and work on everything that he was struggling with. He focused on boosting his confidence and attaining a better shooting percentage inside the perimeter.
“I’m shooting the ball well and not fading back on my shot anymore,” York said. “Instead of looking at the ball when I shoot, I’m just looking straight at the rim. Just by changing that alone, I’ve been making a lot more shots and free throws. Now I’m not just a shooter; I can take those two dribbles and go try to dunk on someone or pull up for a floater or mid-range jump shot. I’ve really worked on that.”
York also said he’s worked on his in-between game, such as floaters and pull ups, along with working on becoming a better finisher at and around the basket. This is an area he struggled in during his first two years.
“Gabe is an excellent shooter,” Miller said. “From the last game you saw him against Wisconsin a year ago to when you see him here in a couple of weeks, you’re going to see a more mature, better player.”
This fall, after a summer of focusing on attention to detail and polishing his offensive skill set, York returns to the court eager to prove himself as a balanced offensive presence as the Wildcats prepare to kick off the upcoming season.
“If I were a betting man,” Miller said, “I’d bet on him having a real big role on this year’s team based on what we’ve seen here so far.”
Follow Evan Rosenfeld on Twitter.