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Arizona basketball: Parker Jackson-Cartwright bringing fresh energy to the court for Wildcats

Maybe Arizona is a little deeper at guard than what people thought heading into the season.

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It's no secret that T.J. McConnell is Sean Miller's guy at point guard. But that doesn't mean that it's not a nice option when the backup can come in and get the job done.

That's what Parker Jackson-Cartwright has been able to do so far this season for the Arizona Wildcats.

"Parker's been playing great this year," Kaleb Tarczewski said on Thursday. "He plays a little differently than T.J., but he really does a good job."

"No question I think a lot of good things are happening for us on offense when he's in," Sean Miller added.

"He's been getting better at this as the season's gone on by really controlling the game," Tarczewski said of the freshman's progression this year. "You have to do that as a point guard, and you have to be a leader for your teammates out there."

Coming in as a true freshman, being a leader of an experienced group like the one Arizona has must be difficult, but Jackson-Cartwright seems to be handling that just fine.

"He's been doing a great job of controlling that so far," Tarczewski added. "He's been getting better at defense, and he's been doing a great job."

But while he is doing a good job at leading, and getting it done on both ends of the court, there's obviously still tons of room for improvement, especially on the mental aspects.

"T.J.'s confidence, obviously he's been playing college basketball for a long time," said Tarczewski of the biggest difference between McConnell and Jackson-Cartwright. "He really knows the game inside and out. Parker's a freshman coming in, and he's really trying to learn the role, and sometimes that's tough to be able to step in and not at some times know what you're doing. But he's been doing a great job of that, and he's just been playing really confident and that's just what we need him to do."

"You want to come in with a positive mindset, knowing you can make a difference," Jackson-Cartwright said after a game earlier this year. "The coaching staff really instilled a lot of confidence in me, and it's just good to be out there playing."

Having a freshman that's been able to step up and take on the challenge of playing point guard at Arizona has given Sean Miller the ability to rest McConnell at times when maybe he couldn't last year.

"That's one of the good things about having such depth on our team," continued Tarczewski. "We don't have to play as many minutes as we did at the end of last year when Brandon (Ashley) was hurt. So having these guys coming in: Dusan (Ristic), Elliott (Pitts), Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) coming off the bench. These guys are just a constant flow of energy out there on the court, and it really helps us."

"I think he has a really fast push with the ball, and part of it is he's fresh," Sean Miller said after Tuesday's game about Parker. "He's coming off the bench into the game, but you want him to play like that when he comes in."

"That's really important for us," Elliott Pitts added about Parker's offensive game. "There's going to be guys closing out on me or Gabe (York) or doubling Kaleb in the post, and he's shown that when he gets the ball up top or on the wing he can knock down that shot."

PJC has been averaging nearly ten minutes a game, thanks in part to that San Diego State game where the entire team was in foul trouble early. But in those ten minutes, he's averaging 3.7 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 rebounds. As a freshman developing behind a guy like McConnell, Arizona fans should have a very optimistic outlook on the future of the point guard position in Tucson.