Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Gordon could be Arizona's X-factor
By Paul Biancardi
The best basketball recruit out West decided to stay out West to join the Arizona Wildcats. Forward Aaron Gordon (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty), the No. 4 overall recruit in the ESPN 100, committed to Arizona on Tuesday.
Ultimately, the Wildcats’ style of play appealed to the high-flying forward, as well as the coaching of Sean Miller and the ability to play with a team that could win a national championship.
“The style of play fits me perfect,” Gordon said. "Up-tempo on offense after we make stops on defense, and I like to defend.”
Arizona’s roster is set up to win -- and win big -- especially now with the addition of Gordon.
T.J. McConnell, a transfer point guard from Duquesne, will step in and distribute, make shots and has a knack for steals. Also in the backcourt, current sophomore shooting guard Nick Johnson is an amazing athlete and a terrific two-way player who can be a tenacious defender.
No. 4 recruit Aaron Gordon will bring his high-flying game to Arizona next season.
The frontcourt should be even more loaded. Gordon and fellow McDonald’s All American recruit Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will see time at small forward, giving the Wildcats size, strength, versatility and interchangeable parts on defense to trap or switch any screens. Down low, with an NBA-caliber front line of 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski, 6-10 Grant Jerrett and 6-8 Brandon Ashley -- all current freshmen -- this frontcourt can score and limit opposing teams’ points in the paint while being mobile enough to hedge on screens.
Gordon will likely play the small forward spot, but don't put a single position on this super athlete because he can be an impact player either on the perimeter or in the post.
What are the Wildcats getting with this high-energy athlete? First and foremost he plays the game with a childlike passion but has a man’s body and is extremely coachable. What opens your eyes about him is that he competes with constant effort even when he doesn't score. Combine that with his elite athletic ability and skill set, and that's a powerful prospect.
He will be one of the best finishers in the Pac-12 because he rises up high and quick off the ground with power and can avoid defenders with body control. He can dunk over opponents or take body contact in midair and still score.
Where he will shine for Miller is inside the arc being involved in ball screens, dribble handoffs, post-ups or drives from the high post. Against zone defenses he will find the creases at the short corner or mid-post to score or use a back-screen lob to get an easy dunk. Miller is no doubt already drawing up lob plays for the player some say is a poor man's Blake Griffin. He also brings the ball down the floor exceptionally smoothly for his size, and his ability to finish at the rim is like second nature.
Look for Gordon to be an X factor for Arizona as he brings the Wildcats a terrific two-way player with versatile skills. His passing doesn't get a lot of attention because of his overwhelming athleticism and scoring skills, but he sees the floor well and accurately finds his teammates. He also prides himself on playing defense both in the post and on the perimeter.
There is plenty of room to grow for Gordon as he still needs to get comfortable and confident in his jumper, first from mid-range and then from distance. But he is working hard to improve his shot, and his relentless approach is the sign of a humble guy who wants to be great.
With his athleticism, versatility and skills, Gordon is the exclamation point to Arizona’s 2013 class, joining Hollis-Jefferson and fellow ESPN 100 prospect Elliott Pitts to give the Wildcats the No. 5-ranked recruiting class.
He may also be the missing piece for Arizona to make a deep run in March next season.
"With the returning roster and the freshmen coming in,” Gordon said, “we have a chance to win the Pac-12 and take a run at the national championship.”