Arizona basketball: Aaron Gordon plays hockey, Nick Johnson on Wooden Award list

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Some linkage for today, including a nice feature on Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson joining AG on the official midseason Wooden Watch list.

A lot of talk this week has been about Aaron Gordon, but it's not been about what he's been able to do on the court. It's about him as a person. During Tuesday's teleconference call, Sean Miller answered a general question about Gordon by talking about the freshman's character.

"What Aaron brings to the table is the highest-character athlete," Miller said. "I mean that in any sport, whether it be professional or any college sport, nobody has a higher breed of character than Aaron Gordon."

Like he was referring to a high school clique, Miller said the guy just doesn't bring any drama with him. ESPN's Dana O'Neil got the same gist when writing a feature on Gordon. She discovered that the bouncey 6'8 forward used to play ice hockey (weird, right?). In the piece, you get a good sense of Gordon's upbringing. He has a family of athletes, but unlike most, his parents didn't push him to excel in basketball.

It's telling of just how much Gordon loves the sport on his own. The biggest line in the piece, to me, came from Gordon's mom.

"My son went to college at the age of 17 because I didn't know people held their kids back for sports purposes,'' Shelly said. "I never heard of that. My kids were just kids.''

She refers to the AAU circuit where it's become more than common for parents to, instead of push their children to graduate early, hold them back so they improve their recruiting stock playing against younger, less-experienced players. It's misunderstood that the practice is only because of academics.

Arizona's own Kaleb Tarczewski wasn't eligible for the McDonald's All-American game to play with Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley a year ago because he was a super-senior.

Johnson on midseason Wooden list

This past week, I wrote about how Gordon's hype had clouded the importance of Nick Johnson. It's been a interesting discussion when thinking about who is Arizona's best player. Best is different than most important, too.

Johnson, who Miller said is 100 percent despite an apparent ankle tweak suffered against ASU,  joined Gordon on the midseason Wooden Award list that was released on Wednesday. Here's the entire group of 25.

Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Keith Appling, Michigan State
Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
Aaron Craft, Ohio State
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Rodney Hood, Duke
Nick Johnson, Arizona
DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Doug McDermott, Creighton
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
Jabari Parker, Duke
Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Casey Prather, Florida
Julius Randle, Kentucky
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Russ Smith, Louisville
T.J. Warren, North Carolina State
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Chaz Williams, Massachusetts
Joseph Young, Oregon

Best backcourt?

ASU coach Herb Sendek, who got a first-hand glance at the Wildcats last week, complimented the Arizona backcourt but said that T.J. McConnell is the binding factor on this Arizona team.

"In a lot of ways, I think Nick Johnson is the most outstanding player," Sendek said in the Tuesday teleconference call. "T.J. Is the most valuable player for the team. He's the guy who pulls it all together for them. He's a winner in every way. He's a coach's dream."

Kelli Anderson of Sports Illustrated wrote more about it in this  feature on Sean Miller and T.J. McConnell's similar background.

Watch it

Stats on stats

John Gasaway gives us the entire Pac-12 and national points per possession statistics for both offense and defense. We also find out the Wildcats aren't the fastest-paced team ... not at all. I suppose that's by design with Arizona being a defensive-minded team.

Small forward depth

According to Chad Ford's ESPN Insider Mock Draft 2.0, Aaron Gordon is the eighth pick in the 2014 draft. Assuming he leaves, Stanley Johnson takes his place. Johnson is ready to play at the HoopHall Classic, and CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello breaks down the best players at the high school hoops event by how they fit with their college teams.

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