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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Three pointers are key to wins


Arizona then-sophomore guard Gabe York (1) tries to shoot over then Wisconsin then-sophomore forward Sam Dekker (15) during Arizona’s 64-63 overtime loss to Wisconsin at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on March 29, 2014. Along with Elliott Pitts and Kadeem Allen, York is a significant key to hitting more three-point shots this season.

Arizona’s defense has been the backbone of the team under head coach Sean Miller, but the Wildcats won’t win a national championship if the three ball doesn’t fall.

Gone is do-it-all guard Nick Johnson, who led the team in three-point makes and provided countless clutch plays for a 33-5 Arizona squad that advanced to the Elite Eight last season.

The team struggled to consistently space out the floor last season, particularly because the team played such a big lineup. The front court of Aaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski was among the best in the nation and rightfully dictated the mentality of the team.

That was before Ashley went down for the season with a broken foot and Gabe York was inserted into the starting lineup.

York ended up starting just 12 games for the Wildcats but his importance to the team cannot be understated. He provides valuable floor spacing that opens up driving lanes and free the big men.

To be clear, York should not be classified as a sixth man; he is a sixth starter. York, who’s listed at 6-foot-3 but is closer to 6-foot-1, would start on almost every other Pac-12 Conference team. Arizona is not every other Pac-12 team, though.

Miller will likely plug and play highly touted recruit Stanley Johnson and bring York off the bench again. However, thinking of York as just the sixth man is not fair to his importance to the team.

Arizona’s offense was much more fluid and had better spacing with York in the lineup. In essence, York proved he’s good enough to start on a marquee team.

Despite playing about only 22 minutes per game last year, York was second on the team in three-point makes (52) behind Johnson. I have no doubt that York will have a prime opportunity to improve upon that mark this season.

Another player who could contribute in the three-point game is sophomore Elliott Pitts.

Pitts played sparingly as a freshman last season as Miller used seven- and eight-man rotations instead of a deeper rotation that would’ve included Pitts. The 6-foot-5 guard is one of the better shooters on the team and could see an increase in playing time now that Johnson is gone.

Having another summer with the Arizona strength and conditioning coaches should do wonders for Pitts. His main reason for not playing last season had to be his lack of defense, something that York went through the previous season.

If Pitts can get stronger and improve his defensive awareness, expect to see his three-point shooting in the lineup more consistently.

Rounding out what should be a better shooting rotation is freshman Kadeem Allen.

Allen, who was named the 2014 National JUCO Player of the Year by the NABC and NJCCA, is a bit of an unknown compared to York and Pitts. Allen averaged 25.9 points per game last season and had offers from Kansas and Indiana, among other programs.

His ability to score from different areas is what makes him so deadly but it’ll be interesting to see how his three-point shot looks after the Arizona staff coaches him up.

If there’s a player who could surprise a lot of people this year, it’s Kadeem Allen.

Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter “@HouseofPayne555”:

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