Coast 2 Coast Hoops
A lot of people don’t understand why Grant Jerrett is entering the NBA Draft. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter.
Regardless of what complex intermixture of on court and off court factors led to the decision, the result is a young player realizing the dream of every aspiring hooper out there. Jerrett is one step closer to the NBA, and Arizona fans should be happy for him. When a top 10 recruit comes to Arizona, that’s always the expectation.
It’s not like Jerrett left UA high and dry, with no other options. In fact, Arizona’s deep frontcourt rotation is still something of a logjam until redshirts and immediate eligibility transfers are sorted out.
So the Wildcats will be just fine moving forward without Jerrett, though his departure will certainly have a ripple effect. These are some of the implications of Jerrett’s early entry on the 2013-14 season.
Three Point Shooting
Departing seniors Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, and Mark Lyons accounted for the vast majority of Arizona’s three point attempts, so losing another long distance threat in Jerrett is a big blow. Jerrett would have likely been the Wildcats’ best three point shooter, and would have caused nightmare mismatches for opposing big men.
Now that he’s gone, Arizona will be more reliant on the perimeter shooting of guards TJ McConnell, Nick Johnson, Jordin Mayes, and Gabe York.
McConnell is an excellent shooter from all areas of the floor, converting 50.9% from the field and 43.2% from behind the arc in his last season at Duquesne. Johnson is a capable long distance shooter, though he’ll have to work to maintain that as his attempts increase. And Mayes and York are known three point specialists, though they struggled with consistency at times last year.
The Wildcats’ have the shooters in the backcourt to offset what Jerrett could have contributed, but how well the guards shoot the long ball will likely be a topic we revisit many times throughout next season.
Those who question Jerrett leaving for the pros point to his physical frame and need for more strength. But in spite of those deficiencies, Jerrett was still Arizona’s best interior defender last year.
He led the Wildcats in blocked shots, and used his length and quickness to alter many more despite playing just the seventh most minutes on the team. Arizona will miss that, and it’s anyone’s guess as to who fills the void.
Kaleb Tarczewski will be heavily relied on in the paint, but has established himself as more of an impact rebounder than a shot blocker. Brandon Ashley has shown flashes of defensive brilliance, but is still learning how to string together entire games of sustained effort.
And incoming freshman phenom Aaron Gordon has world class athleticism, but that doesn’t always translate to blocks and interior defense on the college level, just ask Angelo Chol. Chol was one of the most prolific shot blockers in high school basketball history, but has found the sledding tough against big men in the college ranks.
Arizona has major talent in the frontcourt, but who will they turn to as the defensive anchor?
The Emergence of Brandon Ashley
Shortly after Arizona’s run in the NCAA Tournament ended, I wrote a piece detailing what fans had to look forward to the next season. One of the blurbs within was titled “The Emergence of Grant Jerrett.”
Chalk that one up as a swing and a miss, and I’ll dust myself off and live to fight another day. But now the blurb has to be about Brandon Ashley, who may stand to gain the most from Jerrett’s jump to the NBA.
Jerrett split time at the power forward and center spots, so his minutes won’t be assumed by just one player. But Ashley should inherit the bulk of Jerrett’s time at the four, making the Ashley-Tarczewski tandem Arizona’s main post attack.
Ashley will have to continue being effective at drawing fouls and securing offensive rebounds, but he will have to develop his jumper along the way as well. An effective shooter in high school, at Arizona Ashley didn’t always show his shooting touch from midrange. But if Ashley displays a consistent jumpshot from about 15 feet, it will help stretch defenses and make him an integral part of the offense.
If Ashley has a breakout year, don’t be surprised if people trace it back to Jerrett going one-and-done.
Of course, this issue is complicated by the fact that Arizona may bring in a graduate transfer that could play the power forward position. While that would certainly take time away from Ashley, his continued development and growth will be a key factor in the Wildcats’ success.
The Recruiting Trail
There’s two ways this one can go. If Jerrett slips in the draft or doesn’t enjoy immediate success, Arizona’s recruiting competition will be quick to use that to their advantage.
Whether true or not, potential recruits will hear that Sean Miller doesn’t develop his bench talent, or that Arizona doesn’t prepare you for the NBA. That’s just the nature of the recruiting game; it’s a cutthroat business where any and all advantages are usually taken.
But the flip side of that coin is much more pleasant for Wildcat fans to think about. If Jerrett goes in the first round (as PGU sources expect) and has a successful rookie year, Jerrett becomes yet another feather in Miller’s cap.
Recruits will hear that you don’t even have to start at Arizona to be a first round pick, they bring NBA guys off the bench all the time. They’ll hear that Miller knows how to get young players to the League. That’s the kind of thing that attracts the nation’s best talent.
If you don’t see the value in that, it wasn’t long ago that Derrick Williams left Arizona to be the #2 pick in the draft. Seeing what Miller and Arizona were able to do for Williams was a major factor in landing Ashley, Tarczewski, and of course, Jerrett.
That’s just a small cross section of the chain reaction set in motion by Jerrett entering the NBA Draft. Truthfully, no one really knows exactly how losing Jerrett will unfold for Arizona, and we can’t imagine all the small or systemic ways that might manifest.
We’ll just have to wait and see. So wish Grant Jerrett the best of luck, because he’ll always be a Wildcat, and his success is also the program’s success. But don’t waste too much time thinking of what could have been, because Arizona’s future is still exceedingly bright.