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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Increase in shooting has Arizona basketball set for success

Rebecca Noble

Arizona men’s basketball guard Gabe York (1) shoots a 3-pointer during Arizona’s 93-72 victory over Texas Southern during the Round of 64 in the 2015 NCAA Tournament in Moda Center in Portland, Ore., on March 19. Along with Elliott Pitts, York is a crucial aspect of Arizona’s perimeter offense.

The last time Arizona men’s basketball played in the NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles, Southern California native Gabe York could only watch helplessly from the bench as Arizona lost late.

Now, he may be a key player for the Wildcats in LA.

“I’d say he can knock down shots with the best of them, and his confidence is up there right now,” Arizona forward Brandon Ashley said. “We expect big minutes out of Gabe all the time.”

In LA two years ago, the shooting guard did not play as Ohio State beat Arizona on a late 3-pointer late in the Sweet Sixteen. Then last week, he scored 19 points to help the Wildcats beat OSU and move on to the Sweet Sixteen.

“You know, if you followed us, I would say over the last six weeks, you look at his points per game, his minutes per game, he’s really emerged,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “[Saturday] was another great example; we needed him, and he delivered. He’s really a big, big part of what we’ve done all year long.”

After not scoring against Texas Southern in the second round, York made five 3-pointers against Ohio State in the third round.

“When they shrink like that, the only thing that’s left for me is to knock down shots,” York said. “[Saturday night,] I wanted to be aggressive but also know that my teammates were going to find me in transition or throughout the zone with however many seconds were left on the shot clock. I just did a great job of knocking down shots.”

Without any shooting guards in the starting lineup, the Wildcats look to York and sophomore Elliott Pitts to help with shooting coming off the bench to play against zones.

York (22.9 minutes per game) and Pitts (15.0) are the Wildcats’ first options off the bench. Not to mention, York is 12th in the Pac-12 Conference in 3-pointers made and has led the Wildcats in scoring four times.

Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell said York and Pitts provide sparks for the Wildcats against the zone.

“It helps us out tremendously when Gabe and Elliott are making shots,” McConnell said. “It opens up the zone and gives us driving lanes to get to the bigs and just make plays. So when those two are connecting on 3’s like that, we’re a tough team.”

York shoots 39.6 percent from beyond the arc, leading the team, and Pitts shoots 35.6 percent. York is ninth in the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting.

Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said when the two are playing well, it opens up space for the wings.

“If we get the ball into the middle, that kind of breaks the zone down a lot,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “You can see things better, and when they collapse, that opens up a lot of things for the bigs or the wings to shoot, and that’s how Gabe got a lot of his shots and we got a lot of dunks.”

York has scored in double-figures 17 times this season, despite being moved from a starter to the team’s sixth man in January. He has scored at least 11 points six times in Arizona’s last 10 games.

Pitts said he’s worked hard on becoming more well-rounded, even though people consider him just to be a shooter.

“Over the season, I’m just being a little bit more aggressive every single game; that’s what the coaches are asking me to do,” Pitts said. “I’ve come really far from being a skinny little freshman to [being able] to hold my own out there, stay in front of my defender and knock down some shots.”

York said the key to recent emergence is believing in himself and his teammates.

“Just being ultra confident,” York said. “Knowing that my teammates are going to find me and in transition, they’re going to find me in the open spots in the zone, and as long as I’m hitting shots, I’m going to stay in the game.”

Miller said he is “elated” with York’s success, especially because of his patience.

“Gabe deserves a lot of credit, because in today’s world, if you don’t play a lot as a freshman, you have a lot of people that are pulling you and tugging you to transfer and go to another program,” Miller said. “Gabe and his family have always shown great trust in our staff. We knew that his best would be when he’s older.”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

— Roberto Payne contributed reporting to this article

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