The Arizona Wildcats might be getting a key player back for the start of Pac-12 play.
Head coach Sean Miller said Wednesday that Parker Jackson-Cartwright returned to practice Tuesday (though in a limited capacity) and could play Friday when Arizona faces the California Golden Bears in Berkeley.
“If he can contribute and allow somebody like Kadeem (Allen) to take a four-minute break to rotate our three guards to give us a fourth guard for the first time, that would be a big shot in the arm for us,” Miller said. “So we’re hopeful that we can get that out of him, but we’re not there yet. If I had that answer I would surely tell you.”
Miller joked that Jackson-Cartwright could be counted as 1⁄4 or 1⁄2 of a player.
“We could use him as depth,” Miller said. “...But as long as we’re not putting Parker out there to further risk an injury, I think all of us have a peace of mind and we’ll be on the same page as him about what his role will be — if he has a role.”
Jackson-Cartwright is at the point in his recovery where he is not at risk of further injuring his ankle, but his mobility is hindered.
“His ankle gets sore, he’s not able to stop and start and cut like he will be able to,” Miller said. “That’s the good news — four weeks is behind and he’s strong, he’s stable, he’s not at further risk, but you don’t go from not doing anything in the four weeks to all of a sudden ‘I’m ready to go’ so we’re very much in a progression.”
Jackson-Cartwright is able to run and jump, however.
“He’s strong enough to support himself,” Miller said. “I think the pain is reduced enough to where he’s not out there hopping. You’ll see that he can run and he can jump, but we’re talking about playing in a five-on-five opening weekend of conference play. There’s a big difference between being able to do that 100 miles an hour and maybe 75 miles an hour. And when he’s out there at 75 miles an hour, he wants to play well. He doesn’t want to go out there and not play well and we need whoever plays in the game to be able to do their job.
“So we’ll be smart. If we’re able to incorporate him in what we’re doing to give him a role that brings out the best in him, obviously Parker will grow that role because as every day that goes by, I think that he’ll be further and further along towards 100 percent.”
Jackson-Cartwright was originally deemed to be out for eight weeks after he suffered the high ankle sprain on Nov. 30, but Miller made it clear that the junior is ahead of schedule.
“I don’t think it’s going to take towards the third week of January for him to be 100 percent, but we’re still very much in a wait-and-see (situation),” Miller said. “I’m anxious to watch him [Wednesday] and [Thursday], to see how he can continue to develop whether we’ll play him at all, what role he’ll have, and then how quickly he can come back.”
Jackson-Cartwright has missed Arizona’s last six games, in which the Wildcats have a 5-1 record. He is averaging 8.0 points and a team-high 5.3 assists per game.
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