After a six-game hiatus due to a high ankle sprain, Parker Jackson-Cartwright returned to the court this past weekend when the Arizona Wildcats took on Cal and Stanford.
Arizona won both games convincingly, including a 91-52 win over the Cardinal in which the Wildcats shot over 60 percent from the field.
Sean Miller thought it was the best Arizona has played all season.
“It makes sense because now we have Parker back, he gives us that eighth player and that’s a big shot in the arm for our team,” he said on his post-game radio show.
Jackson-Cartwright not only added depth to a short-handed Arizona team, but he continued his wizardry as a distributor, picking up 10 assists and just three turnovers in the pair of contests.
Without that, Arizona might not have come away with a 67-62 win over Cal. But Jackson-Cartwright “took one for the team” and returned earlier than originally anticipated.
“The injury he sustained could have knocked him out towards an eight-week period and he fought hard,” Miller said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “For him to be able to return for our Pac-12 opener shows his unselfishness because he’s not 100 percent.
“I don’t know if we would have beaten Cal if he didn’t play and just to have him out there gives our team a big lift, depth-wise and his assist-to-turnover ratio, that’s his stat that he brings to the table.”
After the latest road trip, Jackson-Cartwright now has 47 assists to 14 turnovers this season.
“When you’re 3 to 1, every coach in the country would take a guard with an assist to turnover ratio of 3 to 1,” Miller said.
Jackson-Cartwright has been effective as the orchestrator of Arizona’s offense (when he’s been healthy), overshadowing that one part of his game hasn’t been clicking — his jump shot.
The junior is shooting 24 percent from behind the arc and 35 percent from the field as a whole.
“What we’re guarding against with Parker is that he doesn’t get caught up in his shooting percentage because prior to him being injured, he didn’t get off to a great start shooting the ball,” Miller said.
Miller thought Jackson-Cartwright’s shooting was on the verge of improving before his injury, but now he’ll have to re-calibrate after missing a month.
“While he was injured is when he would have returned to form,” Miller said. “Now on your return, the hardest thing initially to be ready for is shooting. That’s what you’ve lost. You’ve lost reps, you’ve lost the game feel, so we’re working with him now on that and I think that in a short time he’ll return back to being the 3-point shooter that he was.
“I’ve never seen somebody shoot the way he shoots at practice and it not carry over to the game.”
A season ago, it was carrying over to the game. Jackson-Cartwright led the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage in conference play, sinking 49 percent of his 3-point attempts in 18 Pac-12 games.
There has been a noticeable dip since then but, even still, Jackson-Cartwright’s value has stretched far beyond his ability to make 3s.
“We don’t want him to get caught up in that, losing confidence because he has a lot more value to our team than just his shooting,” Miller said. “And we believe wholeheartedly that his shooting numbers will emerge.”
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