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Notebook: On Chase Jeter’s work ethic, Emmanuel Akot’s offseason goals, and Ira Lee’s return

Some notes on guys that are important to Arizona’s future

Connecticut v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Chase Jeter poked fun at himself after the Arizona Wildcats captured their second straight Pac-12 championship.

The Duke transfer posted a picture of him holding up a piece of net with the caption: “When you get an A on the group project but you didn’t do anything.”

When you get an A on the group project but you didn’t do anything...

A post shared by Chase Jeter (@yhase_) on

While Jeter hasn’t played this season — NCAA transfer rules prohibit him from doing so — he’s not actually doing nothing, despite his self-deprecation.

Far from it.

If you venture over to McKale Center or the Richard Jefferson Gymnasium at 8 a.m. on any given day, Jeter will probably be there in a full sweat, working on his game or grinding in the weight room.

“I think after Allonzo Trier, he’s probably the hardest working teammate I’ve had ever,” said UA point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. “He’s in the gym everyday at 8 a.m. and he’s really serious about working on his game.”

Fellow big man Dusan Ristic, who goes up against Jeter daily in practice, echoed that sentiment.

“He works really hard,” Ristic said. “I see him working out at 8 a.m. almost every morning in McKale. With his work ethic and his talent, I think he’s going to be a really good player for U of A.”

Arizona needs him to be.

Ristic is set to graduate after the season, Deandre Ayton is headed for the NBA, and the Wildcats have zero incoming recruits, leaving Jeter as the big man of the future in Tucson by default.

Jeter had two uneventful seasons at Duke, averaging 2.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 48 games, but he was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, so he has the potential to thrive at the next level.

And the work ethic to maximize it, his teammates reckon.

“He’s going to be huge for next year’s team” Ristic said. “He’s a great player, has size, he can score inside.”

“He’s a great teammate as well,” Jackson-Cartwright added, “and Arizona fans are going to be really, really pleased with him.”

Akot’s adjustments

Emmanuel Akot will be another important player in the 2018-19 season. The freshman figures to replace NBA-bound Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins in Arizona’s starting lineup.

Akot has mostly served as a defense-first player at Arizona, but he hopes to have an expanded role offensively as a sophomore next season.

“Definitely being more comfortable with the ball in my hand,” he said of what he wants to improve this offseason. “Shooting, scoring. Just being more aggressive as a player.”

Akot is averaging just 1.9 points per game in 10.4 minutes this season, but he is shooting 9-of-22 (41 percent) from 3.

Akot admitted he isn’t as explosive as he normally is because he has been hindered by knee tendinitis all season.

“They’re getting better,” he said. “I’m doing a lot of extra lifts and little stuff just to help them. It’s an overuse injury so there’s a little pain. ... I’m used to playing more athletic, but I’m adjusting to it.”

Yet, Akot said the most difficult part about transitioning to the collegiate level is preparation.

“You gotta know what the other team is doing, you gotta pay attention to the (scouting report),” he said.

Akot’s minutes have fluctuated throughout the season — a few games he didn’t play at all — but he is content with his role. At least for now.

“I’m just going to do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “Right now, I come in, play defense, be versatile, rebound the ball. I’m OK.”

Ira not Lee-ving

Ira Lee did not play a single minute in the Pac-12 Tournament, despite being cleared to return from his concussion, making it seven straight games since Lee’s last appearance.

One Arizona fan tweeted, “wish my guy (Ira Lee) could have gotten some damn minutes! Hopefully he doesn’t transfer and stays next year and we repeat all this with him!”

Lee assured the fan he has nothing to worry about.

“Not a good enough reason to leave,” Lee tweeted after Arizona won the Pac-12 Tournament. “I’m trying to get another one of these and more.”

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire