BASKETBALL

Arizona basketball: Jerrett, Ashley say hello to Pac-12

2013-01-14T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:23:57Z Arizona basketball: Jerrett, Ashley say hello to Pac-12Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CORVALLIS, Ore. - One by one, the Pac-12's top freshmen kept confidently introducing themselves to the Arizona Wildcats this month.

Colorado guard Xavier Johnson, once a Wildcat recruiting target, had 13 points, six rebounds and two steals for the Buffaloes on Jan. 3. Teammate Josh Scott had 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, instantly a big factor inside.

Then there was versatile Utah forward Jordan Loveridge, who had 17 points with a trio of three-pointers two days later.

And Thursday, in UA's 70-66 loss at Oregon, the No. 4 Wildcats struggled to contain the dynamic Oregon freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson - who combined almost equally for 19 points and five assists.

Finally, on Saturday in Arizona's 80-70 win at Oregon State, the Wildcats reminded everyone that they happen to have two McDonald's All-Americans on the roster.

Forwards Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley, the only two Pac-12 representatives other than two players from UCLA in the prestigious high school game last spring, combined for 20 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks and two steals.

In the three Pac-12 games entering Saturday, the two freshmen were averaging a combined 8.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game.

UA coach Sean Miller said it is "fantasyland" to expect freshmen to immediately blow away the college game en route to the NBA draft lottery, noting again that it's a process even for guys like Jerrett and Ashley.

"But they're really good players, great kids, and I believe that one day there's no question about it, they can head in that direction," Miller said. "It's a process they're more than happy to go through. They work hard every day and as you could see (against OSU) they're immensely talented. But sometimes, unfairly so, you expect these guys to come in and all of a sudden take over."

There may be another factor at stake here, too.

While all of the aforementioned freshmen around the Pac-12 are needed to be among their team's top producers, Jerrett doesn't even start, and Ashley can defer to any number of older, capable players around him.

They know the Wildcats have plenty of options, many of whom have paid their dues.

"That could be something else to it," Jerrett said. "We've got seniors who have gone through so much, and it's their last year. It's just playing as a team and letting them get their shots."

Of course, the Wildcats also don't want their talented freshmen to get too deferential. Even senior guard Mark Lyons told Jerrett that the Wildcats "trust your ability" when Jerrett sent him a text message expressing his intent to play better.

Jerrett said he "can't put a finger" on why he wasn't more aggressive earlier, saying maybe he was still transitioning to the UA coaches. But whatever the case was, Jerrett found a solution.

"Lately, I just haven't been playing well, and I've just been thinking to myself, 'What can I do to get better?' " Jerrett said. "I thought I'd be as aggressive as possible. I came out there and tried to do what I can defensively, not letting guys get into the paint and get an easy bucket."

Jerrett responded Saturday with six blocked shots, four more than his previous season high, while Ashley scored 12 points in just 22 minutes after he had just three points off the bench against Oregon two days earlier.

To Miller, those are the kinds of performances that make the Wildcats' 15-1 season even more fun.

"It seems like every time you go through a new experience, those freshmen seem to improve, and that's one of the exciting things about our team," Miller said. "We have a number of first-year players in key roles and hopefully they can continue to develop.

"Brandon and Grant were much better (against OSU) than they were against Oregon. Some of that has to do with Oregon being a better team. But they were more ready. They were physical. They helped us win."

freshmen at a glance

Brandon Ashley

Out-of-conference games

8.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg

First three Pac-12 games

5.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0 bpg

Against Oregon State

12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal

Grant Jerrett

Out-of-conference games

5.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.6 bpg

First three Pac-12 games

3.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.7 bpg

Against Oregon State

8 points, 5 rebounds, 6 blocks

Up next

• What: No. 4 Arizona at Arizona St.

• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: FSAZ

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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