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Arizona basketball: York opening some eyes

Freshman's shooting never a question; now defense is improving
2013-01-30T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:24:36Z Arizona basketball: York opening some eyesBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

By hitting a pair of three-pointers in his last two extended appearances, Arizona Wildcats freshman Gabe York has been mounting a public argument for more playing time.

But his most persuasive moments are coming behind closed doors in practice, on the defensive end, and UA coach Sean Miller has been paying attention.

Already having noted York has "improved by leaps and bounds" defensively, Miller indicated Tuesday that York might now join No. 8 UA's rotation in some form after playing in only nine of the Wildcats' 19 games so far.

"Gabe is one of our best shooters," Miller said. "He's continued to improve in other areas, and that's really to his credit. I don't want to get into definite or indefinite, but I can see him being more a part of what we do from this point on, as long as he excels when he gets the opportunity and he continues to practice the way he's been."

Made available by UA for Tuesday's news conference at McKale Center, York left no doubt that he plans to excel. Maybe even Thursday night at Washington.

"Coach has talked to me a lot and told me he needs to trust me on defense before I'm able to play, so if my time comes, that must mean I'm doing something right," York said. "I think this has helped me progress as a player. I've never had to do this in my career, so I think it's actually helped me to work harder than I ever have before.

"When I do get a chance to play, I think it's going to open a lot of people's eyes."

York indicated Tuesday that his defensive struggles stemmed in part from the fact that he rarely guarded the opponent's best player in high school, so as to keep his offensive skills as fresh as possible.

At the same time, he's had to deal with pressure from the outside.

"It's really hard especially when you go on Twitter and everyone's telling me, 'We want to see you out there, and Coach Miller needs to play you,' this and that," York said. "Seeing that, it's hard because you want to be out there, and I'm doing everything possible to play.

"But obviously Coach Miller is the head coach here, and he knows what's best for the team, so I go out there and approach every practice like it's my game day, and hopefully that will get me to where I want to be."

York's lack of playing time is somewhat unusual considering he was a top-75 prospect out of Orange (Calif.) Lutheran last season. He's averaged only 6.4 minutes in the nine games he has played, and didn't get in any Pac-12 games until he received eight minutes late in UA's blowout win over USC on Thursday.

But one of the factors limiting York so far is Arizona's crowded - and healthy - roster. At York's shooting guard spot, UA has workhorse Nick Johnson and plenty of other options while York, unlike junior Jordin Mayes, isn't a point guard who can pick up minutes behind Mark Lyons.

Forward Solomon Hill said he told York that he wouldn't have played much as a freshman if Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill had not left early for the NBA in 2009.

"College basketball is a business," Hill said. "There's a lot of guys who have to sit their freshman year."

But now it is possible that York could play a few minutes at shooting guard while Lyons is out and Johnson handles point guard duties, or when Johnson is out.

In this scenario, York has a chance to give UA the three-point shooting that Mayes has struggled with this season; Mayes is 1 for 10 from three-point range in Pac-12 games.

"We're always trying to do things we can do to spark us and make us better," Miller said. "The hardest thing for a freshman is to not play at all. (York has) handled it well … he's continued to practice, he's continued to stay involved, and he's talented.

"About two weeks ago you could start to sense that he's continued to get better, and for us adding him into the game … he gives you that ability to make a shot, a three, and so many times when guys come off the bench their biggest value is to give you that spark."

Up next

• What: No. 8 Arizona at Washington

• When: 7 p.m. Thursday

• TV; radio: ESPN; 1290-AM; 107.5-FM

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