Bench player Grant Jerrett left after only one season because of his NBA aspirations, and the natives became restless.
Jerrett’s recent performance at the NBA draft combine in Chicago impressed scouts. Some draft-related Web sites, such as DraftExpress.com, have the former Arizona power forward as a trending prospect for next month’s draft.
Jerrett is a one-year-and-done player, which is ordinary news these days. However, it is something fresh at Arizona. He is only the second such player for the Wildcats to leave because of pro aspirations after one season. Jerryd Bayless is the other player.
Former Arizona coach Lute Olson was disturbed by Bayless’ decision to leave for the NBA draft in 2008. Olson, not yet retired but on a leave of absence for health reasons at the time, vowed to never recruit a one-and-done player again.
I remember asking Bayless at the NBA Summer League before his second season in the NBA if he planned to attend Olson’s retirement ceremony at McKale Center in August 2009. Bayless acted as if he would rather run wind sprints. Olson’s absence after Bayless signed a national letter of intent was not to the guard’s liking. Bayless also knew of Olson’s public disappointment over him leaving after only one season.
Jerrett, knowing that many UA followers have been critical of his departure, is not lamenting his decision. He is defiant.
“I just felt like if I wanted to make my dream and goal, it would be to leave now,” Jerrett told the Arizona Republic. “I feel like I would develop more here, playing with the best and against the best. College, it was just kind of like a pit stop for me. You’ve got to go through it. I promised my parents I would get my degree. Ultimately, this is where I want to be. I felt like if I leave now, I’d get a lot better than I would in college.”
Arizona’s coaches showed surprise over Jerrett’s decision to bolt the program after the signing of McDonald’s All-Americans Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said during a broadcast at the draft combine that he spoke to the Arizona coaches and they were “hurt” by Jerrett’s decision to leave.
The raw feelings between Jerrett and the Arizona program will warm over in the next few years, especially if Jerrett establishes himself as an NBA player.
Bayless now embraces the Arizona program and vice-versa. He is shown on one of Arizona’s promotional videos listing the program’s number of draft picks, Sweet Sixteens, Elite Eights, etc., played before the Wildcats’ games. Arizona fans can cheer for Bayless as the lone remaining former UA player in the NBA playoffs with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Arizona’s followers can question Jerrett’s move now, especially after he averaged only 17.8 minutes, 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game during his freshman season.
But if Jerrett is drafted next month and sticks with a team, those same followers will boast about the UA having another former player in the NBA.
One-and-done players will become more commonplace, so Arizona’s fans should get used to it now. Chances are Gordon, compared to the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, will be in Tucson for only one season.
Kentucky fans are no strangers to the one-and-done development of John Calipari’s players. They embrace these players because Calipari won an NCAA title in 2012 with this type of talent.
Kansas coach Bill Self convinced Andrew Wiggins to sign last week because Self wants a national title next season. Coaches are no longer driven by a development plan. They must win now because other programs have one-and-done talent.
Jerrett is not a lottery pick, but he can prove himself to be a diamond-in-the-rough player for a team that is willing to draft him and take the necessary steps to develop him into a productive talent in the NBA.
The natives should not be restless. They should realize the addition of Gordon, Hollis-Jefferson and Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell minimizes the impact of the departure of Jerrett.
The best-case scenario is for Jerrett to succeed in the NBA to show recruits Arizona remains a program for NBA hopefuls. Derrick Williams is the only UA player drafted in the last three seasons.
Arizona has not experienced that kind of inactivity in the draft since none of the Wildcats were selected in 1986 and 1987.