When you are as talented at the forward and post positions as Arizona is, it changes how the defense has to play the game. Take last year, for example. With an NBA-sized front line of Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Aaron Gordon, defenses had to play closer to the rim or be eaten alive down low. Often this led to the defense conceding perimeter shots.
With Arizona once again capable of fielding one of the tallest lineups in the country, the same will likely be true in the coming season.
That should be music to Gabe York’s ears. As a junior, he should have that big breakout opportunity that all his fans have been hoping for.
Whether he secures a spot in the starting lineup or not, York’s three point shooting ability should make him uniquely important for the success of the team. Arizona will need outside shooting, and no one on the roster can shoot it from deep like York can.
When teams are focused on bodying up Tarczewski and containing Ashley, York’s three point shooting can keep defenses honest. When Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson are attacking from the wings, York’s deep threat will open up slashing lanes. When TJ McConnell is probing and penetrating, York can drill the kick out.
There’s clearly a place for York to play a significant role on this team. And it’s not just because of his shooting ability.
York’s athleticism is one of the best kept secrets in college basketball. If you’ve seen this play before, you know what I’m talking about:
With his speed, ball handling ability, and athleticism, York can be a real transition threat as both the finisher or the passer.
The Wildcats lost much of their transition game with Nick Johnson and Gordon now in the NBA. But the uber-athletic York is a potential candidate to help fill that void.
If York can mature his game and take the next step in his development, he could become a critical component of Arizona’s attack.
But none of that can come to fruition until York improves his defense.
The ability to stop penetration and reliably defend perimeter scorers is the biggest obstacle to York’s increased role for the Wildcats. If York can’t be counted on to consistently make the right defensive play, his role may be inconsistent.
We should get a much clearer picture when the team starts regular practice and York is squared off against Johnson and newcomer Kadeem Allen on a daily basis. Both Johnson and Allen are known for their scoring ability, so York can prove his defensive worth before the season starts if he commits to improving defensively.
Only time will tell how York will change or won’t change as a junior. But what’s certain is that the Wildcats can be a much better team with a confident Gabe York playing a significant role.