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Sean Miller on Chase Jeter: “I love the way he defends”

Jeter had a rough two-year stint at Duke, but he showed he can defend at a high level

Michigan State v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There aren’t many positives to take away from Chase Jeter’s two-year tenure at Duke.

The big man averaged roughly two points and two rebounds per game (with poor efficiency), and dealt with a litany of injuries that forced him to miss a significant portion of his sophomore season.

To put it simply: the former McDonald’s All-American was a bust in Durham.

Still, there was one part of his game that showed promise — his defense.

As a sophomore, the long-armed Jeter averaged 2.9 blocks per 40 minutes. To put that number into perspective, the Arizona Wildcats have not had a shot blocker of that proficiency since Kirk Walters, who tallied 3.2 blocks per 40 minutes in 2005-06.

So Arizona head coach Sean Miller, a defensive-minded person, is optimistic about Jeter’s future in Tucson.

Jeter is readying to play his first season at Arizona after sitting out the 2017-18 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules.

The Las Vegas native picked UA over Gonzaga. Miller called the acquisition a “big, big coup.”

“He’s 6-foot-10 and I love the way he defends,” he said.

Just because a player blocks a lot of shots doesn’t necessarily mean he is a good defender, but the metrics are positive for Jeter in other areas, too.

For instance, in Jeter’s sophomore year, Duke allowed 100.5 points per 100 possessions. When Jeter was on the court, that figure improved to 100.2.

Jeter also posted the best defensive box plus/minus — a box score estimate of the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team — on the team at 6.4.

Sure, Jeter only played 238 minutes in 16 games, but he started in six of them, meaning he was on the court against opposing teams’ starting units, which are usually those teams’ best offensive lineups.

Perhaps Jeter’s best game defensively was when he swatted three shots in 26 minutes against Kansas, posting the second-best defensive rating on the Blue Devils.

So, yes, Jeter had difficulty scoring and rebounding at Duke, but he did defend the paint.

And that was almost two years ago.

Jeter had the entire 2017-18 season to develop, learn UA’s system, and practice against two talented 7-footers, which should serve him well moving forward.

“One of the things that I remind Chase a lot of is, he played against and with Deandre (Ayton) and Dusan (Ristic) last year every day,” Miller said. “I don’t know if Chase missed a practice and he’s worked hard to add to his body.”

Ayton and Ristic have departed, and Arizona is short on big men, so Jeter is a shoe-in to start at center in 2018-19.

Miller said the Wildcats will be shifting to guard-centric lineups, meaning Jeter’s rebounding and rim-protection will be a major key to their success. If he doesn’t do it, no one will.

And while Jeter has not appeared in a college game since January of 2017, Miller thinks he is up for the challenge.

“He’s hungry to have a big role, which he’s going to have, and he’s hungry to play again,” Miller said. “We’re counting on big things from him both on the court and as a leader, and you can make the case that he might be as important as anybody on this team.”

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire