After two lackluster seasons with the Duke Blue Devils defined by a back injury and the inability to live up to his 5-star potential, Chase Jeter has re-emerged out west as the Arizona Wildcats’ starting center — and a darn good one at that.
The ex-Blue Devil is averaging 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in his new digs, while shooting 67 percent from the field. He is also one of two team captains and leads the Wildcats in defensive rating (87.7).
Compare that to his days at Duke when he was buried on the bench and averaging 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, and it makes for a feel-good story.
“He’s waited his turn, he’s paid his dues,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller.
Jeter’s ascension might be surprising to some, but it’s not to Miller, who recruited Jeter out of Bishop Gorman High School, coached him in USA Basketball, and watched him practice against the likes of Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic all last season.
“He’s no bum,” Miller said. “He was a McDonald’s All-American in high school, he was very highly, highly coveted. Just because things didn’t necessarily work out at Duke doesn’t mean he can’t play.”
Confidence has been the key for Jeter. It always has.
Before he ever suited up for the Wildcats, he believed that’s what would separate Arizona Chase Jeter from Duke Chase Jeter.
“My opportunity at Duke was limited, so when I got here there was no stress,” he explained in July. “My confidence was through the roof, so I think the biggest thing moving forward for me is that I’m confident and I’m secure with who I am as a player.”
And that increased confidence has only been buoyed by his on-court performance.
“With opportunity comes confidence as well,” Miller noted. “All of our players need confidence. They’re never going to be 100 percent confident everyday. Each of these guys are going to have bumps in the road and it’s up to us as a coaching staff to help them navigate through those tough times. Sometimes they’re tougher than others, but for the most part Chase is one of the more intelligent players that we’ve had.”
Indeed, Jeter is on track to graduate in December and boasts the highest GPA on the team.
“He’s an excellent student and very mature guy,” Miller said.
The UA coach has lauded Arizona’s effort all season — he usually doesn’t say those things lightly — and he gives a lot of credit to Jeter and senior Justin Coleman (Arizona’s other captain) for setting the tone for their younger teammates.
Jeter in particular leads by example, unafraid to do the dirty work, despite his emerging stardom. The big man is far and away Arizona’s top rebounder, grabbing 17 more than the next Wildcat. Jeter has also drawn 14 charges through eight games, an unprecedented rate as far as Miller is concerned.
“This is my 15th year as a head coach and this is a very easy statement for me to make: I have not coached a big guy that draws charges, thinks about drawing charges and plays the game that way anywhere close to what Chase does,” Miller said.
“I think it says a lot about his unselfishness because it’s not a fun thing to do to take charges. Sometimes if you’re a big guy, you’re supposed to block shots. Chase does that as well and he isn’t a small guy, so he affects shots around the basket, but what he does as an individual player on defense, if you’re his teammate, it’s hard not to give effort. It’s hard to not really work because he’s doing night in and night out and every day in practice.”
Jeter has scored in double figures in seven of eight games this season, something he only did once at Duke.
Some student-athletes are applauded for sticking it out and making it work at their current school instead of transferring away — hello, Jalen Hurts and Alabama — but Jeter’s move to Tucson has paid dividends for him and the Wildcats, who are 6-2 coming off a valiant road win against UConn.
“In today’s world, some very good players, once they experience change, they blossom,” Miller said. “I hope Chase is one of those guys that is one of those stories. So far, so good. He’s really off to a good start and it’s up to us to keep him there.”