Why Aaron Gordon is Valuable for #1 Arizona Wildcats


Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon. These were the big four names for the fantastic freshman class of 2013. On November 12, the first week of this year’s college basketball season, there was a doubleheader matchup at the United Center in Chicago, IL featuring four of the top five college basketball teams in the land. Wiggins’ Kansas Jayhawks took on Parker’s Duke Blue Devils, and Randle’s number one ranked Kentucky Wildcats took on a veteran Michigan State Spartans team. These three freshmen stole the show, averaging 25.3 points and 9.3 rebounds among them.

Aaron Gordon watched on TV after coming off a 14 point, 10 rebound night versus Long Beach State one day prior in Tucson, AZ.

Did this night in Chicago demote Gordon to a “second tier” freshman? The numbers would appear so. Gordon averages 12.3 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game. Wiggins averages 15.3 and 5.4, Parker averages 19.8 and 7.6, and Randle averages 17.4 and 10.9.

Is Gordon having a disappointing season? The answer is no. The 6’9” freshman from San Jose, CA is doing everything he has to do for the top ranked Wildcats.

The best part about Aaron Gordon’s skill set is that he does just about everything right. He is one of the most athletic players to ever wear an Arizona uniform, and he just turned 18 a few months ago. He has already put up some highlight reel dunks, can bring the ball up the court in transition, and has developed a reliable outside shot. But the main aspect of Aaron Gordon’s game that separates him from the rest of the fantastic freshmen is his defense. ESPN broke down Gordon’s defense in their “Freshman Math” segment.

It is an extremely rare case seeing Gordon get beat by his man. He has a high motor and his versatility allows him to defend very well at the perimeter and in the low post. His two toughest defensive matchups this season have been Jabari Parker and Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III. In the game versus Duke, Gordon did an outstanding job on Parker, holding him to 19 points on 7-21 shooting. This was Parker’s first game scoring under 20 points. Against Michigan, Robinson III was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 16 points on 6-6 shooting.

Gordon was assigned to defend the sharpshooter in the second half. Robinson III scored only four points, two of which coming on a 5 on 4 fast break when Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski was down on the other end of the court with an ankle injury.

Offensively, Gordon has been very good. He has a reliable outside shot and is very effective in the low post. He always looks to make the extra pass or can take his defender one-on-one and use his athleticism to get to the rim. The Wildcats are the number one team in the country because of their balance and length. Nick Johnson leads the team with 16.4 points per game, and there are three other starters who also average double figures, including Gordon. No player for Arizona has scored more than 24 points in a single game this season, and Gordon has been a reliable role player for the ‘Cats.

The other three freshmen mentioned before were recruited to their teams to be the star one-and-done player for their respective teams this season. Although Gordon may also be one-and-done, he has accepted his role as being a contributor and has been a fantastic teammate.

“He’s got a burning desire to become a great player. He is among the hardest workers I have ever coached,” Coach Sean Miller said on the Jim Rome Show. Miller has been a fan of Gordon’s work ethic and maturity since his high school days, and that is why Gordon is wearing red and blue this season. Sporting News writer Mike DeCourcy says Aaron Gordon is the best defensive player in all of college basketball. Where is that in the stat sheet?

The only weakness Gordon has showed this season is his free throw shooting. He has shot a concerning 45.2% from the line this season. If he can improve this over the course of the season, his points per game will go up significantly, and he will help Arizona during its quest for a championship.

Gordon is about as humble a five star recruit and potential lottery pick as it gets. He has played a key role in Arizona’s current standing among the national powers. Even with all the talent that is around him, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan has Aaron Gordon in his top three players in the entire country for his weekly Wooden Watch.

Gordon and the Wildcats (16-0, 3-0) take on the USC Trojans (9-6,0-2) tonight at the Galen Center at 7:00 P.M. MST.

Enjoy #11 on the court while you can, Wildcat Fans.