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Who Will be Arizona’s Biggest Surprise?

September 30th, 2014 News 6 Comments

Ivy Hunt-Ashram

“Whatever precautions you take so the photograph will look like this or that, there comes a moment when the photograph surprises you. It is the other’s gaze that wins out and decides.” -Jacques Derrida

Sportswriters are among the best in the world at telling athletes what they can or can’t do, and what they will or won’t become. It’s part of the job to categorize and evaluate, but let’s be honest, us keyboard monkeys end up pigeonholing players more often than not. When you make up your mind about a player, it’s hard to shake that perception.

That’s why writers, fans, and even coaches are surprised when players exceed what we expected of them. No matter how closely you analyze the many moving parts that make up a basketball team, you can never really know how it’s all going to come together. What appears to be a less significant piece of the puzzle may end up being much bigger than you anticipated when March rolls around.

Some would argue it’s those surprises that make college basketball as fun as it is.

So who will surprise for Arizona this year? Who will challenge our perceptions and biases about what they can do? Here’s a brief rundown of the candidates.

Gabe York, Junior, SG- If there’s a player on this team who should have a chip on his shoulder, it’s York. He came into the program as a top 50 recruit who was the best player at the illustrious adidas Nations Camp when he was a high school senior, an elite shooter with elite athleticism. Fast forward two years, and York hasn’t seen nearly as much playing time as people expected.

And this year, as a junior, people are still writing him off. Most people have already penciled him in for another reserve role. But is this an example of how our preconceived notions can lead us astray?

York’s role is set to expand, but more importantly he should have the confidence and experience to take the next step as a player. With two full seasons under his belt, he knows what is expected of him and has had time to mature both physically and mentally. It’s never been a question of talent with York, just a matter of putting it all together on the court. He should be in a position to do that this year.

If he starts the season nailing three pointers, the other guards on the roster need to look out because York will be taking their minutes. What this team needs more than anything is a consistent, potent three point threat to open up the floor for all of the Wildcats’ talented height. Keep an eye on how York’s season progresses — he could be the extra piece that gets Arizona to Sean Miller’s first Final Four.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Freshman, PG- Nobody gets counted out more than the little guy, which is why the little guys on the court are usually the most talented and fierce players. Jackson-Cartwright, a 5’10 guard from California, has been doubted for his height and slender frame. It’s a criticism that’s been following him his entire career.

But it hasn’t stopped him yet.

Jackson-Cartwright is as pure of a point guard as there is, with incredible facilitating instincts that would be great for a player many years older. He has an intuitive understanding of setting up teammates, and seems to operate a few moves ahead of the defense like all great point guards do. He’s a great ball handler who can get into the teeth of the defense and deliver precision passes on target, on time. There is no question he will be an excellent college player.

Of course, most people are expecting that to take some time. As a freshman, most fans are not expecting much out of PJC with a senior TJ McConnell running the show. But they could be in for a major surprise.

Jackson-Cartwright won’t have to get big minutes to make his impact. Last year when McConnell was on the bench, Arizona’s offense went limp. It was a clear chink in the armor. But with Jackson-Cartwright’s ability to run the offense, Arizona could have 40 minutes of play with no drop off in offensive execution. That would be a huge advantage in the Wildcats’ quest for a National Championship.

Craig Victor, Freshman, F- It’s pretty easy to tell when a player will become a fan favorite. Certain guys just have the personality and charisma that endears them to the fanbase. Victor is one of those guys.

An infectiously positive locker room presence, Victor is the type of player that raises morale. He also happens to be an immensely talented forward who has an advanced scoring touch.

On this Arizona team, with so much talent in the post, there’s not a clear path to playing time. But that could be the perfect set up for Arizona’s biggest surprise of the season.

If Victor pushes for minutes off the bench, Arizona’s post rotation will be more than exceptional. Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski will anchor the team, but Victor could potentially carve out a role as the back up power forward. Not only would this give the Wildcats another weapon, but it would help keep Ashley and Tarczewski fresh for the NCAA Tournament.

Eliott Pitts, Sophomore, SG/SF- Thrust into action because of Ashley’s season ending injury, Pitts performed admirably in his baptism by fire. More than anything he showed the ability to execute his role and hit open shots, two skills that will take a player a long way.

In his second year, Pitts may not have as much opportunity playing behind Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson, Kadeem Allen, as well as York. But like York, Pitts has the ability to stretch the floor with his long range shot. At 6-5, Pitts also has the height to fill in for the shooting guard or small forward.

As a smart, coachable player, Pitts has already earned Miller’s trust. If the lineup needs a boost in outside shooting, Pitts could be the man for the job.

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6 Responses to “Who Will be Arizona’s Biggest Surprise?”

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  1. victor

    September 30, 2014

    Nice article! I vote for Pitts as the most likely to surprise. Here’s why: 1) he’s a super-hard worker who has made great strides this summer; 2) he showed tremendous promise as a defender last season, which is what’s going to earn him minutes; 3) he is no longer playing with the health issues that plagued him last year, which means that we should see a great deal more energy from him on the court; and 4) he has bulked up significantly. We already knew he could shoot the ball. Now, it’s likely we are going to see a combination of strength, quickness, and aggressiveness from Pitts that we just wouldn’t expect based on his performance as a freshman. All of that, taken together, makes him the front runner to be our team’s “biggest surprise.”

  2. Jeff

    October 1, 2014

    It’s a testament to how good Stanley Johnson is that he is not going to surprise anyone even though he is a freshman. I’m eager to see exactly how much playing time Stanley’s backups get this year, considering York and Pitts have obvious talents and abilities. And Allen may earn some minutes, too.

  3. Papadeuce

    October 1, 2014

    Tough call here on who will surprise. I expect big things from all the guys listed but I think Kadeem Allen will surprise most. It’s hard to know what to expect from JUCO guys, but I think he’s gonna be the real deal!

  4. john t.

    October 1, 2014

    If they all surprise us this season, we will all be smiling big smiles in late March and early April.

  5. DoubleJ

    October 1, 2014

    Nice to see all four of those guys highlighted, and I hope they all get a real shot to contribute along the way. Unlike some of you, I wonder if Allen is going to be the odd man out, for whatever reason? I have to believe Miller and the staff are way more invested in Pitts and York at this point and Allen would have to be head and shoulders above them in terms of overall contribution to the team to risk losing one or both of them. Going to be interesting to watch it all shake out.

  6. Portland Catfan

    October 2, 2014

    This keyboard monkey envisions Kadeem Allen in the 7-man rotation (does that count as a surprise?) from the start of the season. For more of a true surprise, I’ll take Dusan Ristic earning a spot as the 9th man (first big off the bench) by the time Pac conference games start in January. Elliott Pitts should fill out the top 8, and there will probably be no bigs regularly off the bench until garbage time during the non-conference games.

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