Aaron Gordon had an acrobatic 12 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two steals in the Red-Blue Game scrimmage Sunday, making himself known all over the floor.
So does it really matter what position he plays?
Small forward, power forward, whatever. He’ll do a lot of everything, if the Arizona Wildcats' 24-minute scrimmage was any indication Saturday.
“The word ‘unique’ is really at the forefront for him as a player,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “Someone who can pass for his size, with his athleticism, that may be one of the best things he does and he’s only going to get better.
“It’s up to us to get the chemistry and the fit. Because sometimes he’ll be in with two frontcourt players like a Brandon (Ashley) and a Kaleb (Tarczewski) and at times he can be in with three guards. So we’re always looking to move him and put him a in a good position.”
Part of the reason Miller is confident of being flexible with Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is their ability to handle things defensively, which should improve in the near future.
“Rondae, he still has to learn college defense,” Miller said. “Like screening: You sometimes will see him run into a screen or he’ll lose his man. But those are all things two weeks from now or a month from now, he’s going to improve on. But what he has is unbelievable length and size and quickness, so when you watch him out there his talent level of defense is really high.
“Aaron is similar so you have two freshmen who can help us on defense when sometimes (freshmen are) a liability on defense because they just don’t know what they’re doing.”
Miller once again went out of his way to thank the UA fans for showing up inside McKale Center, on a day when the weather was perfect outside and football games were all over TV screens.
“I’m just very, very excited about the whole event this afternoon,” Miller said. “For us to be able to fill McKale on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in October is amazing and also a real testament to the incredible support and crowd. There are some very reputable college basketball programs that in their best intent don’t ever have a crowd like that for a single game on their schedule, let alone an early season Red Blue scrimmage. I would like to thank the fans for coming out.”
Miller made references to the crowd and the media about the importance of the program’s past present and future. UA had several key recruiting targets sitting in the front row: commits Craig Victor and Parker Jackson-Cartwright were on hand, as well as targets Stanley Johnson, Michael Humphrey and Bennie Boatwright.
The Wildcats made only 3 of 14 three-pointers and, while Miller said shooting is a “point of concern,” somewhat dismissed their performance Saturday.
“I would say I’m going to look positively at it in that I think we’re a very good defensive team,” Miller said. “I think we have a chance to be excellent. We didn’t break down because it wasn’t like an all-star game. I thought we had a pretty good way about us to be able to play hard from start to finish.
“Certainly we weren’t perfect. But our defense is ahead of our offense and because of that I don’t look at us as generating a lot of good shots in that scrimmage.”
Miller said he did want point guard T.J. McConnell to shoot more often when he’s open, after McConnell went 1 for 5 on Saturday, with three assists and two turnovers.
Until this year, the second weekend of October was when teams began full practices, and Miller said he’s glad to have the extra time the new NCAA rule allows (30 practices over the six weeks before a team’s first game).
However, guarding against burnout from the already long season is also a concern.
“We’re all as coaches trying to figure out what’s too much, what’s not enough,” Miller said. “We’ve tried to give our players a couple of extra days off, which I believe is great at this time of year.
“The old model forced you almost to go two times in a day and practice a ton because you had three and a half, four weeks, before your first game,” Miller said. “When we have more time, we can be more efficient. You can think toward a bigger picture and that’s what we’re trying to do. If you’d had seen us two weeks ago we wouldn’t even been able to have a game today.”
With his two monster dunks, going behind-the-back once as he drove the baseline and 360 on another, Aaron Gordon may have won Saturday’s pregame dunk contest no matter which teammates he was competing against.
But he had a break in that defending champ Gabe York was dealing with ankle and hamstring issues – Miller said York was at only about 70 percent for the scrimmage – and Nick Johnson said he just wasn’t that into it.
“I had done it two times before so I wasn’t that excited,” Johnson said. “It was (exciting) just being able to play with all my teammates in front of everybody.”
The box score does not appear to be available online but I scanned one in and have attached it. There appeared to be issues with the automatic box score so the final one issued was done by hand, and shows the score as 44-38 even though it was actually 44-39 because one of the Blue team's points could not be accounted for.