Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller on freshman Gordon: Defense “deal-breaker” for wing spot


AZHOOPS11

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Will he play power forward? Will he step out to the wing? Will Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller go small on many occasions and play freshman sensation Aaron Gordon at the post?

“Where will Aaron Gordon play?” is becoming more of a used phrase in Tucson than “Where’s Waldo?”

Fans and media will get their first viewing of Gordon in a UA uniform against an opponent tonight when the Arizona Wildcats host Augustana College of Sioux Falls, S.D. The exhibition starts at 7 p.m. and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.

Miller has commented numerous times that Gordon will play at a position where the game situation dictates. What else can a coach say? Gordon’s athleticism and versatility makes his size — 6’9″ and 225 pounds — obsolete. That’s normally a size for a power forward. But try telling Dirk Nowitzki (7’0″ and 245) that he should play center.

Miller hinted in an interview with USA Today over the summer that Gordon’s supreme defense makes him most effective on the wing guarding a small forward who is potentially smaller and not as athletic.

“We happen to have two starters back: Brandon Ashley, who played the four (power forward) for us, and Kaleb Tarczewski, who played the five (center),” Miller said. “They both as freshmen played a significant role, and they’re going to work even harder to be even better as sophomores. It makes a lot of sense for us to have the ability to play Aaron with those two and in between two guards.

“I believe in many ways that’s his most natural position, when you consider that he doesn’t get enough credit for what a good defender he is. When you talk about what position a guy plays, everybody thinks offense. Most of the time the deal-breaker is defense. You’d say, ‘I’d love to play him there but he can’t guard the typical small forward.’ In Aaron’s case, that is seamless.”

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Arizona’s No. 11 players
Source: UA Media Relations
Leslie Westfall, C, 1939-40
Adolph Matulis, G, 1940-41
Stewart Udall, G, 1945-46
Jim Troutt, F, 1948-51
Ed Fender, G, 1951-52
Ted Lazovich, F, 1954-55
Rudy Garcia, G, 1958-59
Bob Jordan, G, 1959-60
Wes Flynn, G, 1961-62
Chuck Lavetter, G, 1962-63
Bob Spahn, G, 1965-66
John Padelford, G, 1968-69
Lanny Mitchell, G, 1969-71
Jim McLaughlin, G, 1971-72
Maxey Sylvester, G, 1975-76
Michael Tait, G, 1983-85
Kenny Lofton, G, 1985-89
Casey Schmidt, G, 1989-91
Dylan Rigdon, G, 1993-94
Kelvin Eafon, G, 1994-96
Travis Wilson, G, 1998-99
Jason Ranne, G, 2000-04
David Bagga, G/F, 2005-09
Josiah Turner, G, 2011-12
Aaron Gordon, F, 2013-

Kenny Lofton owns his own television production company and serves as a postgame commentator for Dodgers games on Fox Sports West

Kenny Lofton owns his own television production company and serves as a postgame commentator for Dodgers games on Fox Sports West

It’s fitting that Gordon’s defense is recognized wearing No. 11 for the Arizona Wildcats. That’s the same number worn by one of the best defenders who has played at Arizona — Kenny Lofton. The speedster Lofton, who tallied 622 stolen bases in 17 major-league seasons, is one of only five UA players with 200 or more career steals.

Lofton, listed at 6’0″ and 180 pounds but likely a couple of inches shorter than that, is fifth on the UA chart with 200. When he played his last game with Arizona in 1989, that mark was a school record. It has since been passed by Jason Terry (245), Hassan Adams (238), Jason Gardner (225) and Reggie Geary (208).

In a lengthy feature about Lofton at Deadspin.com earlier this year, he was quoted as saying: “I felt I was one of the best defensive players out there, and I’d guard anybody they wanted me to guard.”

The same can be written about Gordon as far as Miller is concerned.

Gordon was quoted as saying by Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com that he prides himself on defense. That’s more substance than the style he can show with those monstrous dunks.

“I know that for me and (fellow freshman) Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson), that was part of the big things coming here, having two freshmen who pride themselves on defense,” Gordon said. “If I look at somebody who doesn’t pride himself on defense, I don’t know why they don’t. Defense is a huge part of the game. You can’t just focus on one side of the ball. It’s all about the process of winning, and I want to win.”

Countdown to Tip-off Blogs:

— No. 12 symbolizes success after hoops career for two Arizona Wildcats guards
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— No. 14 for Arizona Wildcats includes two pivotal players who revived program
— No. 15 embodies grit, determination and intelligence for Arizona Wildcats
— Ranking Arizona Wildcats’ top Sweet 16 victories
— Arizona Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell on Bob Cousy Award Watch List
— ASU’s Jahii Carson Arizona Wildcats’ top opposing player this season
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— Arizona Wildcats guard Jordin Mayes sets sight on successful senior season with 20-20 vision
— Unsung players wore No. 21 proudly for Arizona Wildcats
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— Arizona Wildcats No. 23 players historic in different ways
— No. 24 in Arizona Wildcats history one for the statistical record books
Steeeeeeeeve Kerrrrrrrr!!!!
— A look at the greatest takeaways from Arizona Wildcats’ Red-Blue Scrimmage
— A look at past, future today with Arizona Wildcats’ Red-Blue Scrimmage
— Arizona Wildcats’ Aaron Gordon vying to become third freshman to win Pac-12 player of year
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— Arizona Wildcats’ No. 31 not retired with Jason Terry’s name but should be
— No. 32 most storied jersey number in Arizona Wildcats history
— No. 33 in Arizona Wildcats history symbolic of hard work ethic, ideal role players
— Simon says: No. 34 special with two of Arizona Wildcats’ greatest wearing jersey number
— If Arizona Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski has field-goal percentage like Jud Buechler, UA will be fine
— Arizona Wildcats legend Sean Elliott scored career-high 36 points opposing Sean Miller
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— Two of Arizona Wildcats’ best centers — Sean Rooks and Channing Fryedonned No. 45
— Arizona Wildcats great Ernie McCray reminisces about his record-setting 46-point performance
— Arizona Wildcats star recruit should not be compared to Blake Griffin
— Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller on fast track to Pac-12 success
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— Arizona Wildcats will benefit from presence of Joseph Blair in practice
— Arizona Wildcats preparing for what could be memorable 2013-14 season

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com.

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