Last season Arizona forward Brandon Ashley was part of a trio of freshmen who arrived in Tucson amidst much fanfare. Joined by Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, the McDonald’s All-American was expected to hit the ground running in his debut campaign. While that didn’t happen Ashley was a productive member of a team that reached the Sweet 16, posting averages of 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
With a year of experience under his belt and a bigger role, Ashley’s made significant strides in all aspects of his game. Entering Wednesday night’s game against New Mexico State he was averaging 12.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, reaching double figures in seven of the top-ranked Wildcats’ nine games. Ashley reached double figures for the eighth time in ten games in Arizona’s 74-48 win over the Aggies, tallying 15 points and six rebounds.
Ashley scored ten of those points in the first 20 minutes, as the Wildcats struggled until the latter stages of the half to gain some separation against the preseason favorites to win the WAC. He’s been more assertive offensively, and the end result has been improved scoring opportunities both inside and out. For as good as this athletic group of Wildcats has the potential to be defensively there’s still some work to do offensively, which makes Ashley’s start to this season a key development moving forward.
Also reaching double figures were Tarczewski (14 points, five rebounds) and freshmen Aaron Gordon (11 points) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (12 points, eight rebounds and three assists), with Hollis-Jefferson displaying his versatility on both ends of the floor. There isn’t going to be one player asked to carry the full scoring load for Arizona and that’s fine, with their balance being a byproduct of how talented the players in Sean Miller’s rotation are.
With that being the case the question is who will step up and becomes the players Arizona can expect to receive scoring from on a consistent basis. Through ten games it’s become rather apparent that Brandon Ashley’s taken that next step, but that development will be put to the test on Saturday when Arizona visits Michigan. Unlike New Mexico State the Wolverines have both the size and the athleticism to challenge the Wildcat big men, with the Aggies’ interior players struggling to keep up in the second half on Wednesday night.
Arizona’s already won in one hostile environment, as they held off San Diego State last month, and if they’re to add another quality road victory to their resume the Wildcats will need another standout performance from Ashley.
After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.
The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.
A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.
“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”
While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.
Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.
Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.
The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.
Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.
(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)
The Las Vegas AAU events are all going on this week and it’s the final event for rising seniors.
At the Las Vegas Fab 48, forward Chris Seeley of the Splash City 17U team put down one of the best poster dunks of the summer as he skied over a defender for an emphatic finish.
The Class of 2016 forward attends Central High School in Fresno, California as he’s receiving plenty of buzz for his recent play.
LAS VEGAS, NV — Five-star Class of 2017 forward Jarred Vanderbilt has been one of the most sought-after recruits in the country since he was a freshman in high school.
The 6-foot-8 native of Houston is beginning to wind things down in the recruiting process as he cut his list to nine schools on Friday. Vanderbilt’s list includes some of the most storied programs in college basketball and plenty of schools from his home state of Texas.
“I just followed my heart. Went with the schools I liked the most and who I have the best relationships with. Thear were the schools I could see myself playing for,” Vanderbilt told NBCSports.com.
Regarded as the No. 13 overall prospect in the Rivals.com national rankings, Vanderbilt is currently recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot.
Vanderbilt will see a doctor in three-to-four weeks as he’s currently in a boot to help his foot heal.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has previously expressed a desire to coach a game at the legendary Palestra in Philadelphia and it appears he’ll get his chance in a Big Ten game this season.
According to a report from Brendan F. Quinn of MLive, Penn State will use the Palestra as its home gym for the Jan. 7, 2017 Big Ten game against Michigan State. It is the only time the two teams are scheduled to play during Big Ten season and Penn’s home gym will offer a unique setting for the game.
Since the capacity of the Palestra is 8,722, it should make for a fun atmosphere for both programs since this will be a game both fan bases will likely want to attend.
With Nittany Lions head coach Pat Chambers making Philadelphia a major recruiting priority for his program, a game like this in Philadelphia makes sense while Michigan State has always been open to playing games in unique settings such as aircraft carriers.
The Palestra has been a college basketball mainstay since it was built in 1927 as it hosts all Penn home games and, in the past, hosted a lot of Big 5 Philadelphia college games between La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova.
Overall, a fun idea that should make for an interesting experience for both programs. It’s not often that a team will change its home venue for a conference game, but it could be the start of something we see other schools look to do.