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Arizona basketball: Parker Jackson-Cartwright is thriving, but still has room to improve

Jackson-Cartwright has been masterful for the Wildcats...but he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet

Northern Colorado v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

It’s almost hard to fathom where Parker Jackson-Cartwright’s ceiling is.

Despite being limited with the remnants of a high ankle sprain, the point guard’s mastery of Arizona’s offense hasn’t regressed upon his return from a six-game absence.

In fact, it’s gotten better.

In three games since returning from injury, Jackson-Cartwright has racked up 19 assists to just 3 turnovers, raising his assist-to-turnover ratio to 4 to 1 on the season.

Jackson-Cartwright said Thursday after Arizona’s win over Utah that he still isn’t 100 percent yet. There are some things — like cutting and defending around screens — that he can’t do as well as he would like.

Even still, he dished out nine assists without committing a single turnover against the Utes.

“I feel great when I get going and adrenaline is pumping,” he said after the game.

And so do his teammates, especially Dusan Ristic. The big man is averaging 16.7 points per game since Jackson-Cartwright’s return at the start of Pac-12 play.

Jackson-Cartwright’s pinpoint entry passes have continually put Ristic in a prime position to score.

“Having Parker back...we got a new dimension to our game,” said Ristic, who scored 18 points against Utah, tying a season-high. “We move the ball much, much better. Parker had nine assists to zero turnovers, it felt like he had 15 assists.”

Maybe he actually did have 15 assists.

“I thought he had more than nine assists,” head coach Sean Miller said of Jackson-Cartwright. “He had seven at the half. I can recollect four plays right now where he gave the ball directly to Dusan for a basket. I want to say he had at least double-digit assists.”

Officially, Jackson-Cartwright had nine. While that might be up for debate, his impact on Arizona’s offense is not.

“If you have zero turnovers and ten assists, a big reason why you’re team is going to win is because of you,” Miller said. “And his impact tonight was extraordinary.”

After his recent nine-assist outburst, Jackson-Cartwright now leads the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio.

The scary part for opposing defenses? He isn’t fully healthy yet. Plus his jump shot is bound to improve, too, making him a more complete offensive threat.

Jackson-Cartwright is 0-3 from behind the arc since returning from injury. His lone 3-point attempt against Utah was way off the mark.

For the season, Jackson-Cartwright is shooting 23 percent from 3, a far cry from his career average of 35 percent.

“The last part for him is his shot,” Miller said. “He’s a much better shooter than he shows, and it’s up to us as a coaching staff to help him get his confidence back from the 3-point line.

“Because when he does that, now he’s really playing great.”


You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire