Arizona will be better if Aaron Gordon plays the four, not on the perimeter

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7tkhuLEJig]

Arizona forward Grant Jerrett made one of the most puzzling decisions when it came to entering the NBA Draft as he opted to be a one-and-done player, leaving the Wildcats after his freshman season to pursue a career in the NBA.

Jerrett averaged all of 5.2 points at Arizona, so while his decision may not result in a guaranteed contract at the NBA level, it may have actually been a blessing in disguise for the Wildcats. He didn’t want to battle for minutes with the likes of Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley, so instead of potentially having a disgruntled, unhappy top 30 recruit on the bench, Miller will have more minutes available to keep his talented front court happy.

Losing a player with Jerrett’s potential isn’t exactly ideal, but if it keeps everyone else happy, that’s a good thing.

But that theory only works when operating under the assumption that Aaron Gordon is a power forward, not a small forward. And based on a report from Jason Scheer of Wildcat Authority from over the weekend, it seems as if Gordon is hellbent on playing on the wing.

“As of right now I plan on playing on the wing full time,” Gordon told Scheer. “There will obviously be some times where I’ve got to go down in the post and go to work, but the plan is for me to play on the perimeter, which makes sense when you have players like Brandon and Kaleb in the low post. A lot of my training has been done with that in mind. I’ve always been able to dribble pretty well, so I’ve continued to work on that along with becoming a more consistent shooter.”

Gordon may one day become a three at the NBA level. He’s got the athleticism and mobility to do so, and if he continues to develop his perimeter skills, who knows where he ends up.

source: Getty ImagesThe problem is that next season he will be at Arizona.

And at Arizona, his best position will be at the four.

Why?

Well, for starters, there aren’t going to be many power forwards across the country that will be able to matchup with Gordon. He’s 6-foot-8 and has enough athletic ability to have drawn comparisons to Blake Griffin. That alone will allow him to battle in the paint with anyone despite the fact that his frame still needs muscle added to it.

But Gordon also has enough perimeter skills that he’ll be able to play a stretch-four role. He can hit a three. He can beat a slower four-man off the dribble. He becomes a matchup nightmare at the college level, and he would still be able to play on the perimeter. The power forward is a changing position, and the players that are the best end up being shooting guards that are too big and too slow to be a shooting guard. Think Doug McDermott or Christian Watford or even Anthony Bennett — who, ironically enough, is a good comparison for the kind of impact that Gordon can have.

All of that comes before you factor in that Arizona also has a kid on their roster named Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who just so happens to be a prototypical small forward in the college game. Hollis-Jefferson is one of my favorite players in the Class of 2013. He plays hard, he’s very athletic, he can guard any position on the perimeter and he’s got the skills to play on the wing already. Putting him alongside Gordon at the forward spot with TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson in the back court and a rotation of Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley in the middle is scary.

But if Gordon plays the three, it clogs everything else up. With Angelo Chol transferring, it means that the Wildcats no longer have any quality front court depth. It forces Hollis-Jefferson to come off the bench or play out of position. It creates a logjam at the two, with Jordin Mayes, Elliot Pitts and Gabe York all fighting with Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson for minutes. It puts him out of position.

I wonder if Gordon watched Mike Moser play the three at all for UNLV last season. That didn’t go all that well, and Moser went from being a potential first round pick in 2012 to having to transfer out of the UNLV program for the 2013-2014 season.

If Gordon wants to be a small forward, he has every right to try and be a small forward. I hope that he puts in the work and turns himself into a small forward. A guy with that kind of athleticism could become a superstar in the NBA if he learns to defend the perimeter, shoot the ball and dribble.

But this Aaron Gordon playing small forward for this Arizona team is not the right decision, and Arizona will not be as good if that’s the case.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.