Grant Jerrett’s Surprise Decision Could Leave Arizona Short From DeepPosted by AMurawa on April 17th, 2013
After years of regularly losing underclassmen to the NBA Draft, it looked like this was the year that the Pac-12 was going to by and large dodge that particular bullet. Yeah, Shabazz Muhammad is gone after just one season, but we all knew that even before he announced that he’d be attending a Pac-12 school. And Player of the Year Allen Crabbe will leave a season of eligibility on the table as he enters the NBA Draft, but he has paid his dues and earned his spot after three stellar seasons in Berkeley. But everywhere else, it seemed that the decision around the conference had come down on the side of returning to school. Jahii Carson, Kyle Anderson, C.J. Wilcox, Andre Roberson, and more – all returning. Even Oregon State’s Eric Moreland, who had made something of a splash earlier this season by announcing that he would test the waters, decided that it would be in his best interests to return to Corvallis.
But then on Wednesday night, news came down of a surprise early-entrant, someone who really hadn’t even been on the radar to leave early: Arizona’s freshman forward Grant Jerrett, he of 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in fewer than 20 minutes per game. Early expectations are that Jerrett is a serious candidate to be left undrafted, and even a best-case scenario probably has him picked in the second round where he would be without a guaranteed contract. Yes, he is a 6’10”, 235-pound skilled big man who shot better than 40% from three in his lone season in Tucson, but he has yet to prove his ability to compete with the big boys in the paint at the collegiate level, much less the NBA. He’s definitely still got a future playing basketball, likely for a lot of years, but odds are that he’ll be spending the next few years playing in the D-League rather than in McKale Center — a perfectly fine decision if he has decided that college is not for him, but could be a disappointment if he has designs on slipping right into an NBA rotation. Still, expect to see Jerrett pop up in the future when you flip on NBA games down the road. In a league that has proven time and time again to have roster spots available for specialists, a 6’10” player who can knock down threes at a productive rate will almost certainly find a home somewhere.As for the Wildcats, the popular sentiment is “hey, no big deal, they’ve got like five more big guys where that came from.” And there is some truth to that, as Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley (both guys who are, maybe ironically, more highly regarded by NBA scouts than Jerrett) will return for their sophomore seasons, Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will join the crowded frontcourt as freshmen, and even Angelo Chol, a work in progress, will fight for minutes in his junior campaign. So, as far as size goes, Arizona won’t be killed by Jerrett’s departure. But one area where the super-talented Wildcats may be lacking is in outside shooting, Jerrett’s primary strength. With the departure of their three most prolific three-point threats, the expectation is that Jerrett would play a key role, along with returning shooting guard Nick Johnson and newly eligible transfer T.J. McConnell, in stretching opposing defenses. With Jerrett no longer in the mix, all of those frontcourt players are guys who are most comfortable in and around the paint; Jerrett’s three-point stroke would have gone a long way towards providing some half-court balance to the team.
There’s still plenty of talent on this team, but as we saw this season in places like Lexington, Las Vegas and Waco, the mere presence of a talented roster is not enough to produce success. You need to have balance, chemistry, and players able to fill particular roles. Sean Miller will now need to find some way to get a variety of big men to share the paint.