LAS VEGAS - For months - years, really - Parker Jackson-Cartwright hasn't been able to demonstrate why the Arizona Wildcats pursued him to be their point guard of the future.
A stress fracture in his left foot cursed his early prep career. Last year, a high right ankle sprain cost him most of the travel-ball season and part of his 2012-13 season at Los Angeles Loyola High School. Then, just as he finished the season strongly, another ankle sprain kept him out much of this spring.
Only now, in the summer before his final high school season, is the diminutive but electric point guard at full speed. Playing for the California Supreme, coached by former Wildcat guard Miles Simon, the 5-foot-10-inch Jackson-Cartwright is showing off quickness, sharp passing and a basketball court sense that usually results in the right teammate being set up at the right time.
It's him. Finally.
"When he's healthy, he's one of the best in the country," Simon said about the UA commit. "He's dynamic. He can run a team, (opponents) can't keep him out of the lane, his jump shot is improving and he's an excellent defender.
"He's a special player. A special player."
Funny thing is, Jackson-Cartwright is at full speed just when many players his age could be tempted to slow down. He's in his final weekend of travel-ball and, because he's already chosen a college, hardly needs to impress college coaches.
But the motivation burns internally. He can't ignore it.
"I always have something to play for," Jackson-Cartwright said. "I'm a competitor. Every time I step on the floor I'm going to do my best to win the game."
Another motivator is that the Las Vegas Classic is Jackson-Cartwright's final appearance with the Supreme, for whom he has played since the eighth grade.
"It's really sad because I think back how many years of AAU basketball, and this will be my last one," Jackson-Cartwright said. "It makes you think a little bit."
So far, though, he's going out with momentum. Jackson-Cartwright helped lead the Supreme into the round of 16 in the Las Vegas Classic's most prestigious championship bracket on Saturday.
With the Supreme leading by just four points late in a Saturday afternoon game against ProSkills, Jackson-Cartwright blew through the defense for a coast-to-coast layup. His team wound up winning 71-59.
"I just try to make plays," Jackson-Cartwright said. "I'm very versatile. I can do a lot of things besides passing and scoring."
Jackson-Cartwright had shown signs he was finally ready during Loyola's summer games last month. He scored 31 in a 26-point win in a tournament last month, among other performances, and Simon couldn't wait to get him with the Supreme.
"I knew in June when he was healthy that he was playing great," Simon said. "He was ready to go as soon as July started."
At the same time, Jackson-Cartwright said he has been working to strengthen the muscles around his ankles, hoping he can continue playing well and get back into top shape for his final season of high school basketball.
"I'm just working hard getting my body right, trying to get rid of some of these knick-knack injuries," he said. "I'm feeling really good and playing well. I feel confident."
It helps that Jackson-Cartwright doesn't have to worry about recruiting pressure like many of his peers.
He committed to UA in February, the first member of the Wildcats' 2014 class, and is expected to sign a letter of intent in November.
"It's a relief," he said. "I didn't get (the commitment) out of the way for that reason, but I feel it was the right decision. Now I can focus on getting better and having a terrific senior season."
Jackson-Cartwright is scheduled to arrive in Tucson next summer, joining T.J. McConnell at the point for the 2014-15 season. After McConnell's eligibility runs out following that season, the job could be all his.
But Jackson-Cartwright knows there's a lot of work to do before then. On his health and his game.
Arizona coach "Sean Miller is a point guard, so we're constantly on the phone talking about it," Jackson-Cartwright said. UA coaches "love the way I play, but there's always room for improvement."