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Arizona Basketball: Comparing the Wildcat Freshmen to Former Arizona Stars

Casey CroweFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2012

Arizona Basketball: Comparing the Wildcat Freshmen to Former Arizona Stars

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    Arizona basketball's 2012 freshman class—Gabe York, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski—came to Tucson as highly regarded as any in program history, snaring plenty of national hype from all of the high-profile recruiting sources.

    ESPN, Scout and Rivals all listed that crew among the top three in the country, just behind UCLA and Kentucky, and so far they've provided key support roles in pushing Arizona to the No. 9 ranking in both major polls.

    Considering the wealth of talent that played on the McKale Center floor prior to their entrance—including 63 NBA draftees—there is a staggering amount of potential stardom infusing the program. 

    All of the aforementioned newcomers share similarities with former Arizona standouts, some in striking fashion. 

    In this slideshow, this year's newbies will be evaluated next to their most-comparable predecessors in the desert, based on physical and mental makeup, as well as overall skill sets.

    Come inside to see which former Arizona players most closely resemble this year's crop of Wildcats rooks.

Gabe York: Salim Stoudamire

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    In terms of pure entertainment value, Arizona never suited up a player superior to Salim Stoudamire.

    The cousin of former Arizona star point guard Damon Stoudamire, what Salim Stoudamire lacked in height for a score-first guard, he made up for in quickness and aggression.

    Standing just over 6'0", Stoudamire was short for his slot, a factor in his relatively brief NBA career. But he was dynamic in his collegiate days, a deadly left-handed shooter with a lightning dribble and unheralded explosiveness in his legs.

    Good luck finding anyone who elevated as high as Stoudamire on his jumper.

    Arizona freshman Gabe York owns a lot of Stoudamire's tendencies, particularly his pension for instant offense coming from an undersized scorer (he's listed at 6'2").

    Just check this clip out, in which York posted one of the highlights of the year at the high school level in 2011-12.

    Look familiar?

    And through four games, while limited in minutes due to Arizona's depth (his max so far was 12 against Long Beach State), York's shown glimpses of Stoudamire's tenacity early on.

    It took Stoudamire four years to develop into a complete college player, and York will likely follow an extended path to notoriety at Arizona. While it may take time to fulfill his destiny, he's bound to put on a show in the process.

Kaleb Tarczewski: Loren Woods

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    This comparison is probably going to look like a slight to Kaleb Tarczewski by the time his collegiate days are done in Tucson.

    That's not a knock against Loren Woods—who averaged 15.6 points and nearly four blocks per game as a junior at Arizona—but rather it's a testament to what the experts believe is Tarczewski's ceiling (PointGuardU.com).

    He's being projected as perhaps the premier center the program's ever rostered. He's currently slotted as the No. 16 pick in the 2014 draft, according to DraftExpress.com.

    Woods, a transfer out of Wake Forest, was a huge get for Lute Olson at the time. While he was a dominant force defensively in the low post, much like Tarc is developing into, he was never complete offensively, and actually regressed in his second—and final—season in the desert.

    A comparison of Tarczewski's (albeit through just four games) and Woods' freshman numbers (which were compiled at Wake), show the early progression was nearly the same.

    Woods finished his frosh season with 6.8 points, 5.2 boards and 1.5 blocks per game. Tarczewski is currently at 6.3, 5.3 and 1.5, respectively.

    But in terms of body type, Tarczewski's thick build dwarfs Woods' skinny frame.

    Perhaps an even more accurate comparison than Woods is a former Arizona player who ended up transferring out of the program: Kansas' Jeff Withey.

    Tarczewski and Withey own more comparable body types and skill sets, complete packages physically with sound shot-blocking skills (though Withey is ahead in that category) for the college level.

Grant Jerrett: A.J. Bramlett/Rick Anderson

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    Grant Jerrett owns the main positive traits of both Rick Anderson and A.J. Bramlett, although the Arizona freshman out of La Verne, Calif. is more refined all-around than either of the ex-Wildcats postmen.

    Anderson was a lanky 6'10" power forward with a precise long-range jumper, natural instincts and a willingness to sacrifice his own numbers for the sake of a team that landed in the 2001 national championship—a devastating (and controversial) loss to Duke the eventual end-game.

    Jerrett's already shown off his stroke in 2012, hitting four of his first six attempts from beyond the arc to begin his collegiate career. And he'll likely have to settle for third-or-fourth option status during his time on the court as a frosh.

    In terms of similarities to Bramlett, neither will wow watchers athletically or with the fluidity of their movements.

    Sometimes it even looks awkward, but it's almost always effective.

    Jerrett's game isn't explosive leaping ability with tomahawk finishes. Instead, he'll beat players with polish, using positioning, proper footwork and an arsenal of techniques garnered through repetition to beat his opponents.

    Bramlett—who formed a tight bond with Jason Terry from the late 1990s through 2000—owned much the same style during his tenure under Lute Olson, parlaying a quality set of low-post skills into an NBA draft pick.

    To clarify: Jerrett's pro future is brighter than either Anderson's or Bramlett's were during their days—and by a long shot—because he owns a combination of their best features, plus he has a more impressive frame.

    Fundamentally, Jerrett's among the best freshmen in the nation, and he'll turn his array of abilities into a valuable piece of Arizona's impending tourney run.

Brandon Ashley: Derrick Williams

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    Arizona followers are going to love this comparison. And, in this writer's mind, it's the most accurate of any on this list.

    Brandon Ashley is Derrick Williams, the 6'8" frosh out of high-school power Findlay Prep—by way of Oakland, Calif.—already in the process of compiling a debut campaign to rival that of 2011's No. 2 NBA draftee.

    Williams, also 6'8" and long, averaged 15.7 points and 7.1 boards as a freshman under Miller.

    Ashley—the most impressive of the freshmen so far—was at 10.8 points and 8.5 boards through three games, though he's also seeing fewer minutes than Williams did due to Arizona's wealth of depth. Proving his efficiency, he put together a 20-point, 10-rebound performance in just 24 minutes against Long Beach State before Thanksgiving (h/t TucsonCitizen.com).

    Considering Williams' reign under Sean Miller in Tucson, ultimately resulting in one of the finest individual NCAA-tourney sprees in program history, Ashley's potential is one of the engaging early developments of 2012-13.

    He also seems to own Williams' notorious work ethic, dropping 12 percent of his body fat before starting his freshman season (h/t Arizona Daily Star).

    Said Miller (via Arizona Daily Star):

    (Ashley's) played with a lot of confidence. He’s learning how to play with more effort and he’s getting better on both ends of the ball. It’s exciting to see somebody as young as he is improve through his work ethic.

    The main difference between the duo appears to be Ashley's lack of a three-point shot at this point, though Williams was far from a finished product in that category in his first year at Arizona. However, Ashley appears to be ahead of D-Will in the rebounding department.

    Miller molds NBA-caliber forwards. He's proven that during his brief stay at Arizona, and Ashley appears to be the next in that line.

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