Arizona’s floor leader returned over the weekend and, well, Arizona looked a bit more fluid. And that’s not to say Arizona didn’t look bad when Parker Jackson-Cartwright wasn’t in there behind Kadeem Allen and Kobi Simmons. In fact, Arizona went 5-1.
But as Sean Miller said the point guard position is Parker’s “deal.”
“That’s the position he’s always played,” Miller said at his weekly press conference. “He’s inherently thinking pass and understands what it feels like to have the ball in his hands and looks for others.”
And not to say Miller feels more comfortable when Jackson-Cartwright has the ball and is in control, but “he’s more sure of himself with the ball and whether that be at the end of the game where there’s pressure” or not.
Yes, he’s that crucial on so many levels.
Wasn’t it just two seasons ago when former star point guard T.J. McConnell said UA fans didn’t have to worry because they’d be in good hands with PJC?
Well, he’s kind of like Allstate.
By the time the Utah game comes around – on Thursday – Jackson-Cartwright should be even healthier than he was going into last weekend. Miller admitted PJC isn’t at full strength after his high-ankle sprain at the end of November.
“He didn’t have any setbacks over the weekend, which we didn’t expect,” Miller said. “But, I think his conditioning will continue to come back and his confidence shooting the ball will continue to develop. We’re happy to have him back, for sure. We played a long time without him.”
And Arizona did OK. Kudos to Allen and Simmons, but …
It’ll be even better with PJC. First don’t judge him by his overall numbers from the weekend especially from the floor. He was just 1 for 7. However, he did have 10 assists to three turnovers. And, again, he wasn’t 100 percent.
“When you get hurt like he did and the injury could have knocked him out, he fought hard in rehab … and for him to return for our Pac-12 opener shows his unselfishness,” Miller said. “He basically took one for the team. We would not have beaten Cal if he didn’t play. Just to have him out there gives him a bigger lift.”
As far as the shooting, Miller said he wants PJC to ease back into it. More specifically, he doesn’t want him to get “caught up in the shooting percentage.”
Arizona knows he can shoot and make shots. Last year was proof of that given he was one of the better shooters in the conference from distance.
“We’re working with him on that and in a short time he’ll get back to being the 3-point shooter that he was,” Miller said. “… I’ve never seen someone shoot like he does in practice and not have it carry over to a game.”
What has carried over has been his ability to come back and help with depth. In the last few weeks, Arizona has visibly looked tired at the ends of games.
“Foul trouble is really disarming and foul trouble isn’t good for anybody,” Miller said. “But if you’re only playing seven and (then there’s foul trouble) then you’re playing six then you sub because they are wearing down.”
Specific to Arizona, Arizona just has three guards – with Allonzo Trier still out – so it also affects others, including Lauri Markannen who must move to a small forward spot to help accommodate other positions. Rotations get varied just for survival.
“We did the best with what we could,” Miller said.