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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona basketball in good hands with Jackson-Cartwright

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Kyle Hansen

Arizona men’s basketball guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright (0) dribbles past Oregon defense during Arizona’s 80-52 win against Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament Championship Game in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on March 14. Jackson-Cartwright is the heir apparent to T.J. McConnell and figures to get most of the reps at point guard next season.

Arizona men’s basketball point guard T.J. McConnell’s eligibility is up, as difficult as that might be to face. Luckily for fans, Arizona coach Sean Miller and his staff are master recruiters and knew this day would come.

Freshman Parker Jackson-Cartwright will be the answer to the Wildcats moving forward at the floor general position and will continue the legacy of Point Guard U.

“He’s like my little brother,” McConnell said. “He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does, and he should play more than he does, and that’s nothing against the coaches. He’s done as good of a job as anyone on this team and Tucson; this school is going be in good hands with him.”

That’s high praise coming from a player with one of the biggest hearts Tucson has ever seen.

Following in McConnell’s footsteps will be a challenge. Nobody doubts that. But McConnell knows the Wildcats are in a great place with Jackson-Cartwright at the reigns.

“He’s one of the best point guards I’ve played against,” McConnell said to AZCentral back in October. “He’s a different kind of point guard. People look at him and say, ‘Aw, this kid’s small; he’s skinny.’ But you get on the court, and he’s going to embarrass you if you have that mentality.”

Embarrass you he will. As you can ask many opponents this season, Jackson-Cartwright exploded to the basket many times as soon as a defender took his eyes off him. Plus, his speed and quickness make defenders break their ankles; just watch his recruiting mixtape.

The 5-foot-10 point guard from Los Angeles averaged 9.6 minutes per game, 1.8 assists and 2.9 points as the backup this season. But even more than those stats was McConnell being able to get a breather on the bench and the Wildcats not falling off during those few minutes.

“He’s way better than me,” McConnell said. “I think he’s going to be better than I was here, and I’ve said this before: Tucson’s in great hands with Parker, and I love him to death.”

McConnell even went as far as to describe why Jackson-Cartwright will be a better guard than him.

“He’s way beyond his years,” McConnell said. “You guys don’t see him in practice — the way he kills me in practice most of the time. He runs the team, he can shoot the ball and people underestimate him for his size, and that’s when he kills him.”

Plus, Jackson-Cartwright is a shooter. In his limited action, he shot 39 percent from the 3-point line, compared to McConnell’s 32 percent.

For a freshman, the California native is wise beyond his years. He even compared his learning from one of the best point guards in the country to that of a sponge.

“[McConnell is] just great,” Jackson-Cartwright said after the Wildcats beat USC earlier in the season. “He’s the best point guard in the country, and I don’t say that because he’s my teammate. He teaches me every day on and off the court good things. I’m a sponge trying to soak up everything he tells me, and I’m glad he’s here with me.”

The Wildcats have a lot to look forward next year, and it starts with Jackson-Cartwright. With speculation that the entire Arizona starting lineup will be gone, the Wildcats bring in another top-tiered recruiting class and will have transfers in Ryan Anderson and Kadeem Allen able to play immediately after sitting out a year.

Wildcat fans welcomed Jackson-Cartwright with open arms in Arizona’s first game of the season against Mount St. Mary’s, 37 games before their disappointing loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight. Following the game, Jackson-Cartwright thanked the fans for their support when it hit him that he was a Wildcat.

“From day one in the summer when I got here, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “This crowd is behind us, and just the support is unimaginable.”

Moving forward, who knows what the Wildcats will be able to accomplish with Jackson-Cartwright handling the rock?

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Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.

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