So far this season, Arizona has looked as good as advertised. They’ve played well and won the games they were supposed to, while performing solidly on both offense and defense. A big reason why the Wildcats have been able to do so has been the play of freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, as well as the emergence of sophomore Gabe York.
Gordon is leading Arizona in rebounding and blocks at 9.0 rpg and 1.8 bpg, while also chipping in 13.0 points per game. His point total is second on the team to junior Nick Johnson.
“Aaron Gordon’s talent speaks for itself, period,” head coach Sean Miller said when asked if Gordon receives as much attention as the nation’s best freshmen. “When he enters the NBA Draft, they pick him based on performance, not hype.”
And while Gordon is one of Arizona’s brightest stars, the Wildcats have another star freshman in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who has been just as good this year.
Hollis-Jefferson is playing reliable defense and contributing in a variety of areas. Averaging 10 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assist, 0.8 steals, and 0.8 blocks in just 20.2 minutes per game, he is actually one of the most versatile players in the entire country. Hollis-Jefferson also leads Arizona in free throw attempts.
Miller was quick to heap praise on both of the freshmen.
“Aaron and Rondae, it’s amazing how much we’re asking of them because they’ve played both inside and out, guarded a variety of players,” he said.
The scary thought for Arizona’s opponents is that Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson have just five games under their belt, yet they are performing like potential All-Conference candidates. If they continue to improve, the Wildcats will have two major weapons that they didn’t a year ago.
“The more experience they get every day in practice, the better they’ll be when the game comes,” Miller said.
In addition to Arizona’s impact freshmen, sophomore Gabe York is heating up in his first year as a rotation player.
York has been an offensive spark, pouring in 11.6 points in just 22 minutes off the bench. He’s also been Arizona’s best three point threat with a team high 12 threes through five games. And he’s converting a ridiculous 52.2% on 4.5 long range attempts per contest.
Miller credited York with improving his body in the weight room.
“He’s a year older, if you just look at his weight and his strength, he’s significantly bigger and stronger,” he said.
More than anything, York appears to be more confident than ever, and it’s translating to performance in games. But Miller pointed out that practices may have actually given York the confidence he is displaying.
“He’s got 140, 150, maybe more practices under his belt than he didn’t have a year ago,” Miller said. “Gabe’s hungry, he was that guy that didn’t play a lot last year. Worked extremely hard this offseason, he’s working hard every day.”
As Arizona prepares to play two games at Madison Square Garden, Arizona’s young trio of new contributors will be crucial to the Wildcats’ success.