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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Big things come in little packages for Arizona

Arizona+guard+Parker+Jackson-Cartwright+%280%29+shoots+the+ball+over+USC+defense+during+Arizonas+87-57+win+against+USC+in+McKale+Center+on+Thursday.
Tyler Baker

Arizona guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright (0) shoots the ball over USC defense during Arizona’s 87-57 win against USC in McKale Center on Thursday.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright proved to have what it takes to lead the No. 7 Arizona basketball program Thursday night against USC. The freshman guard had the breakout half of his collegiate career, and it’s a good sign for the Wildcats of things to come.

Jackson-Cartwright contributed 11 of Arizona’s 87 points in the 87-57 victory over the Trojans, all of which came in the second half. He was the only non-starter to reach double-digits for the Wildcats.

“It starts with [Jackson-Cartwright] right here getting us in the offense and getting the guy the ball,” Arizona point guard TJ McConnell said. “Parker showed why, for the next three years, this team is going to be just fine with a new point guard.”

Before he sustained a concussion against Arizona’s home victory against Oregon on January 28, Jackson-Cartwright averaged just 10.3 minutes and 3.1 points per game. He recorded 16 minutes on Thursday.

After a slow first half, including three fouls, it seemed apparent that Jackson-Cartwright’s head still wasn’t all in it. But he bounced back with a fantastic finish in the second twenty minutes.

“It felt really good.” Jackson-Cartwright said. “It’s not easy coming in your freshman year and playing hard, trying to do all the right things and then suffering an injury.”

The freshman is the frontrunner to take over the point position after McConnell graduates. Despite his height – he ranks at the bottom of Arizona’s lineup height-wise at a generous 5-foot-10.

Scout.com ranked Jackson-Cartwright as the fifth best point guard in his class in 2014. His quick feet and ability to see the floor make him one of a multiple threats on Arizona’s offense.

A couple minutes into his first time back on the court since the concussion, Jackson-Cartwright was pushed backward by a USC player and seemingly hit his head, but got up and kept playing.

“Since I’ve been cleared, I haven’t really worried about the concussion,” Jackson-Cartwright said.

He ignited the second half by getting fouled and shooting a three-pointer from the top of the arc at the 14-minute mark. After sinking 2-3 free throws, he connected with the net for another 3-pointer with 12 minutes left.

It was unclear whether No. 0 would play against the Trojans on Thursday, but his strong performance in practice proved he was ready for the challenge.

For Jackson-Cartwright, things can only go up from here. Back fresh from the injury, he gives the Wildcats another body off the bench who is finding his niche within an up-tempo offense.

“I just want to help out the team in any way I can,” Jackson-Cartwright said.

Jackson-Cartwright’s performance will be especially important down the road as Arizona prepares for the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments. Arizona has five more conference games, three of which are home, before Las Vegas.

If I were to gamble, I’d put my money on Jackson-Cartwright as one of the most improved Pac-12 freshmen of the year.

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Follow Nicole Cousins on Twitter.

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