The Arizona Freshmen: Improving Like Everyone Else

Everyone just needs a little patience and encouragement. - Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

They came heralded as saviors. Then soon reality set in that these were indeed freshmen and Jerrett, Tarczewski, and Ashley maybe need a touch more time. They're not unique.

I'm going to name a few players who you've likely heard of before, OK? Here they are: Channing Frye, Jordan Hill, AJ Bramlett, Ed Stokes, Ivan Radenovic. Good group right there yeah? Every single one of those guys was drafted into the Association, save Ivan (I mean...). For all the Point Guard U talk, that's a formidable set of bigs and we're not even addressing the Derrick Williams, Michael Wrights, or Chris Mills who've rolled through McKale. Well let's take a gander at those five as freshmen:

Arizona Big

Points/Game

Rebounds/Game

Channing Frye

9.5

6.3

Jordan Hill

4.7

4.1

AJ Bramlett

1.9

1.9

Ed Stokes

8.0

4.6

Ivan Radenovic

5.8

2.9

Not exactly how we remembered them is it? And these numbers sure do look familiar. I think they look a lot like, say, Grant Jerrett's (4.9/4.1) or Kaleb Tarczewski's (5.8/5.8)? Maybe even Brandon Ashley, too (8.1/5.8)?

Such is the case because freshmen bigs take time. They're evolving projects that have been coveted since the day the school nurse had to use a second measuring stick to chart their growth. And Arizona has three of them who have been playing the limiting factor on a potentially elite team. A word (potential) that has been tossed around this group since the day they said, "Yes," to Sean Miller.

But it's another "P" word we need to be aware of: Patience. You see, kid's with unibrows are rarely successful in college and never put up 14/10/5. That's ridiculously rarified air. He is not the barometer. And we could go ahead and argue that the aforementioned Wildcats came in far under the radar, during Lute's heyday as a talent evaluator. That Arizona's current crop of pups arrived with loftier expectations and have been a collective disappointment. OK, how about this bit of borrowed data diligently collected by my friend @CUGoose. The following are the freshmen year averages of Top-50 big men over the last three classes:

Class

Points/Game

Rebounds/Game

2009

6.6

4.8

2010

9.0

5.5

2011

8.8

5.8

Once again we find ourselves looking at very familiar numbers and so, in my estimation, to even remotely consider Jerret, Tarczewski, or Ashley a disappointment is narrow and short sighted. Did we perhaps expect more? Sure and if you had the opportunity to ask them I think they'd say the same.

And maybe we can look at one more Wildcat for further context. This one was the 35th rated player in the 2008 class and arrived in Tucson a promising seven-footer. Ok so this is where it gets awkward: his freshmen year wound up being in Kansas where he contributed all of 1.3 ppg and 1.4 rpg. Today he's known as the most prominent post defender in the nation and held the aforementioned, Anthony Davis, to 1-10 shooting in the title game. This season he's dropping 13 and 8 whilst blocking 4.3 shots per game. I know Jeff Withey may not be loved in Tucson, but he really is a terrific example of what a promising big tends to become.

Here stand the Wildcats today with a group of freshmen touted as the saviors of Arizona Basketball as we want to know it. What have they done? Well they're 17-2 and if you're to take anything away from reading this it should be that patience with this group is necessary because like bigs before them, they will improve.

A team that's still improving two-thirds deep into the season and ranked eighth? Yes, please!

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