Nick Johnson

Arizona's Gabe York and T.J. McConnell (AP Photo)

Arizona’s senior point guard works to be an even better leader in 2014-15

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Despite the loss of NBA draft picks Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, Arizona is expected to be one of the contenders to cut down the nets in Indianapolis next spring. One reason is the arrival of one of the country’s best recruiting classes, a group led by elite wing Stanley Johnson. But more important than the newcomers are the players due back in Tucson, including big men Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski, small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and point guard T.J. McConnell.

A question for Sean Miller’s Wildcats had to address during the summer was who would step forward as the team leaders, with Johnson’s depature leaving a noticeable void in that area. One player who has stepped forward is McConnell, and in an interview with Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star he discussed life without Johnson and how much the Houston Rocket helped team chemistry last season.

Is it different for you in your third year here?

A: Kind of. Last year, Nick was that go-to guy that we always went to. He was that rah-rah guy, pretty much our leader. He’s gone and new leaders have to step in whether it be me or anyone else. I’m fully capable and willing to take that role and I’m going to push everyone every day and try to do what Nick did for us last year.

Was living together last year fun or did you get on each other’s nerves? You’re together so much anyway.

A: At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to see these guys every day. I’m not sure everyone felt the same way. But it was good to just be able to walk next door and talk to the guys after a game, and after a bad practice you’d have all those guys surrounding you. So it was actually good. Nick was 100 percent the reason we did that and I thank him for that.

Offseason workouts can go a long way towards determining who the team leaders will be, and given McConnell’s position as the starting point guard he should be a natural fit for that role. Leaders are important for any team, much less one that will have to manage lofty preseason expectations while looking to complete the mission they saw come to a tough end in the Elite Eight last year.

Arizona has plenty of talent; outside of Kentucky there may not be another team in the country that can match their depth especially with Ashley back from the broken foot that ended his sophomore year in January. But prognostications and hype win teams nothing, and it will be imperative that McConnell and the other veterans make sure their young teammates have a clear understanding of that.

Arizona loses Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson to the 2014 NBA Draft

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Several members of Arizona had decisions to make regarding their future following a season that ended with an appearance in the Elite 8.

While Kaleb Tarczewski, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley announced they would all return to school, giving the Wildcats another talented front court next season, starters Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson declared for the 2014 NBA Draft.

For the 6-foot-9 Gordon this had been an expected since he arrived on campus as one of the more talked about freshmen in the country. In his lone collegiate season, Gordon averaged 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks per game. He is projected as the No. 8 overall pick according to

MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

Johnson will forgo his senior season after being named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year and a second team All-American, leading Arizona in scoring at 16.3 points in addition to his 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Despite his success this season and improvement made in his career, Johnson is on the outside looking in as far as the first round is concerned. He’s currently projected as the No. 48 overall pick by Draft Express.

“He’s made a meteoric improvement across the board in his time at Arizona, and that stems from his unbelievable attitude. Nick, his family and our staff came together and we think it’s appropriate that he moves on to the next level,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Tuesday. “When you’re a first-team All-American, it speaks volumes to your talent. He leaves Arizona with my complete support and I have no doubt that he’s going to be successful at the next level.”

Report: Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon expected to declare for 2014 NBA Draft

Aaron Gordon
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Arizona’s season came to an end on Saturday night with a heartbreaking, overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Elite 8 in Anaheim. The attention will now shift to freshman forward Aaron Gordon, and whether or not he will declare for the 2014 NBA Draft.

Shortly after the loss, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports tweeted that sources informed him that Gordon would declare for the NBA draft, “barring a stunning change of mind.”

Gordon averaged 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 block per game in what could be his only season in Tucson, though, moments after Saturday night’s loss he didn’t close the door on returning for his sophomore season.

“You know, I’m not sure,” Gordon told reporters on Saturday night. “I have a great foundation so I’m going to talk to a few people and see how that goes and then make an educated decision.”

MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

All season long Gordon has expected to be a one-and-done given that he’s a lock for the lottery, currently projected as the eighth overall pick by Despite shooting 3-of-11 from the field against the Badgers, he hauled in 18 rebounds (six offensive) against Wisconsin on Saturday night. Gordon helped send the game to overtime when he forced Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson into a contested, step back jump shot.

Gordon might not be the only Wildcat eyeing the upcoming NBA draft. Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, is listed as an early second round pick according to