Coast 2 Coast Hoops
There is no question that Gabe York is an explosive player. He has a rare combination of elite athleticism and deadeye shooting, and he has a knack for scoring in bunches. But after playing less than six minutes per game during his freshman year at Arizona, you might not know it.
Last year opportunities were limited for York, to say the least. The most he played in a game was just twelve minutes, way back on November 19th. It was the Wildcats’ third game of the season, a blowout win against Long Beach St. From that point on, York saw action in twelve of the remaining 32 games.
But it’s hardly uncommon for top level recruits to find themselves in reserve roles as freshmen, especially at a program that attracts talent the way Arizona does. And considering how perimeter-dominated the 2012-13 roster was, York was pushed to the end of the rotation by virtue of depth, not lack of talent.
Though guards TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson are expected to take up most of the minutes in the backcourt, things should be different for York this season. Arizona relied heavily on a trio of seniors in Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, and Kevin Parrom, whose departures create a lot of opportunity for the returning perimeter players to expand their roles.
Arizona will likely need three point shooting from the bench unit, a task York and senior Jordin Mayes both seem equipped to handle. Lyons, Hill, and Parrom were all high usage players, but this year the offense figures to flow more through Arizona’s talented bigs, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Aaron Gordon. York’s long distance shooting could be key in spacing the floor and creating room for his teammates to operate near the basket.
And while there’s plenty of opportunity for York to contribute on the offensive end, it won’t mean anything if he can’t find a way to contribute defensively. As is the case for most freshmen, defending at the college level proved to be York’s biggest hurdle. It was why he played sparingly, if at all, and almost exclusively when the game was decided.
Just how much York improves as a sophomore will be critical to his career at Arizona. He stands to play an increased role in his second year but if he spends another season buried in the rotation, rumors of a transfer would become deafeningly loud.
And if things were to play out that way, York would be wise to consider his options.
A player with his talent could be developing on the court for a number of other quality teams. The fact that he hasn’t yet contributed at Arizona is a testament to the talent that the coaching staff has assembled and continues to add to. With the way the program has been recruiting, minutes are always going to be hard to come by, even for talented players.
But that’s looking too far into the future. We can’t know how any of that will play out until York shows what he can do as a sophomore. He has the chance to play a meaningful bench role, and solidify his place in the program going into his upperclassman years. Or, his career could be characterized by uncertainty after two years of sparse playing time.
That’s why York’s continued development is crucial. Things aren’t going to change overnight, so fans should be rooting for York to capitalize on his early season opportunities, hopefully foreshadowing break out performances down the line.