Lute Olson used to say that a player makes the biggest jump from his freshman to sophomore seasons. It makes sense, with a year of experience under their belt, a sophomore is more likely to hit the ground running.
That should be true for Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who will likely inherit the starting point guard position in his second year in Tucson.
But Jackson-Cartwright has an extra feather in his cap when it comes to taking the leap from reserve to starter. He spent a year learning from one of the best point guards in Arizona history, TJ McConnell.
That experience he gained from watching and practicing against McConnell will be invaluable when it comes time to take the reins himself. McConnell’s poise, leadership, and unselfishness are all traits that seemed to rub off on Jackson-Cartwright throughout his freshman season.
And while his freshman stats may not jump off the page, his impact went far beyond the box score. Kind of like McConnell.
More than the numbers he accumulated, Jackson-Cartwright’s biggest contribution was as a steady offensive facilitator. He didn’t get many opportunities for extended run, but PJC made the most of the opportunities he got, showing a capable offensive game and a brilliant knack for finding teammates in scoring position.
He showed great decision making with the ball in his hands, posting a 1.8 to 0.7 assist to turnover ratio. That’s better than 2.5:1 if you’re keeping score at home. In some way, TJ McConnell’s strong ball security may have set the bar for Jackson-Cartwright’s own decisions with the ball.
Of course, that number will go down as he logs more minutes and gets more defensive attention. But he has looked comfortable running a team early on, and more importantly, the rest of the team looked comfortable with him. Similarly to how McConnell had instant chemistry with his teammates, Jackson-Cartwright has shown the same natural point guard skill.
But taking the next step as a sophomore will be about more than his point guard skills. We all know that he’s a heady, crafty player who can set up plays. You don’t drop 7 dimes in 13 minutes like he did against Gardner-Webb without knowing how to run an offense.
Instead, it’ll be Jackson-Cartwright’s own offensive game that will propel him in the leap to starter status. And that’s an area he’s shown great promise.
Though he doesn’t look for his shot often, Jackson-Cartwright showed the confidence to take and make opportune jumpshots. He also showed a talent for knowing when to attack the rim, where he was surprisingly effective.
In fact, Jackson-Cartwright shot a solid 45% from the field despite a late season shooting slump that lowered his three point percentage to 39%.
He flashed a glimpse of his offensive potential in February against USC, scoring 11 points in just 16 minutes. He was 3 of 4 from the field and 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, and showed an aggression he hadn’t displayed yet that season.
With an improving offensive game to go with his already stellar point guard skills, Jackson-Cartwright looks poised to step up in a big way next year. We’ve seen what Sean Miller can do with a true point guard, and that’s exactly what PJC is.
After two years of TJ McConnell at the point, Arizona fans are a bit spoiled. But with potentially another three years of Jackson-Cartwright at the helm, they’ll be downright spoiled rotten.