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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Sean Miller finally has backup point guard

Rebecca Marie Sasnett
Rebecca Marie Sasnett / The Daily Wildcat during Arizona’s 2014-2015 Red and Blue Game at McKale on Saturday. The Red team won 53-46 against the Blue team.

For the past five years, basketball head coach Sean Miller has had to struggle just to find a starting point guard, let alone a backup. Mediocrity has plagued the backup point guard spot and hampered his ability to use his bench properly.

Before we dive into why that’s not the case this season, let’s have a brief history lesson.

Miller’s first season at Arizona is the only year where a backup point guard has played over 18 minutes per game. Lamont “MoMo” Jones played behind Nic Wise and provided reliable play in his freshman year as a Wildcat during the 2009-10 season.

Jones would end up as the starting point guard for the 2011-12 season before transferring to Iona before the 2012-13 season to be closer to his sick grandmother. His would-be backup, Josiah Turner, was thrust into the starting role and struggled remarkably. Turner battled inconsistency and suspensions throughout his lone season at Arizona.

Turner’s backup was supposed to be Jordin Mayes, but he wasn’t much better, either. The Wildcats were stuck in point guard mediocrity and had nowhere to go but up. The 2012-13 season saw Mark Lyons transfer from Xavier University and solidify the starting point guard spot. Unfortunately, Mayes was still the backup and still struggled.

Then there was the 2013-14 season, where Miller stuck to a seven or eight-man rotation and rarely used Mayes in a backup role. In essence, the backup point guard was Nick Johnson. T.J. McConnell played 32.2 minutes per game as the starter and was fantastic at controlling tempo and staying out of foul trouble.

Based on the above history lesson, here’s a rundown of point guards who have held the backup point guard role in Miller’s time at Arizona so far: Jones (one season as backup), Turner (half a season as backup) and Mayes (about three-and-a-half years as backup).

That’s one solid backup and two eerily inconsistent players. Miller’s recruiting prowess on the wings and down low is a major reason why the team has gone 129-48 in his five years at Arizona. His lack of recruiting at point guard is why the team hasn’t been even better.

That should change this season, though.

In comes Parker Jackson-Cartwright to help solidify the backup point guard role left vacant with Mayes’ graduation. The 57th overall recruit in the 2014 class, according to ESPN, is listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds. In reality, he’s probably closer to 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds.

Coming out of Loyola High School in Los Angeles, Jackson-Cartwright lacked the wow factor that most high-level recruits are “supposed to have.” He’s a rare throwback to more fundamental point guards.

Where most high school highlight mixtapes show players throwing down sensational dunks or seemingly crossing up an entire team at once, Jackson-Cartwright’s mixtapes show him finishing in traffic with both hands, playing defense and hitting teammates for open buckets.

He’s exactly what you want from a backup point guard: someone who can facilitate the offense, hit an open shot, play defense and be an extension of the coach on the floor. Jackson-Cartwright can do all that and more.

Going against McConnell every day in practice is sure to help Jackson-Cartwright learn the intricacies of being a point guard on a premier D-1 collegiate basketball team. If he wanted to learn as much as possible in his first year while also getting valuable game experience, Arizona is the perfect place for him.

In the annual McDonald’s Red-Blue Game held over this past weekend, the two point guards went at each other almost exclusively. Not surprisingly, McConnell won the head-to-head matchup. However, what might have gone unnoticed is Jackson-Cartwright’s willingness to take all of McConnell’s defense straight-up and continue to run the offense.

The stats from that game won’t show it, but Jackson-Cartwright brings exactly what Miller needs from his backup point guard.With the regular season about a month away, Miller and his staff should have comfort knowing that for the first time since the 2009-10 season, there is a capable player ready to back up the starting point guard.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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