Arizona shooting guard Gabe York came to Tucson with a reputation as a lethal scorer, as dangerous in the air—despite a 6'1" frame—as he was from beyond the three-point arc during his prep days at Orange (Calif.) Lutheran.
But at this point in his college career, most of his damage is confined to mind bullets aimed from deep on the Wildcats bench.
The 18-year-old combo man averaged 24.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game in his senior campaign (MaxPreps.com).
Rivals.com listed him as the 11th-best guard coming out of high school in 2012.
ESPN called his touch 'feathery,' and graded him out at 93 out of a possible 100, good enough for the No. 65 slot overall in the nation.
The credentials are there en masse.
However, during the earliest portions of his Wildcats tenure, York is the last of the scholarship players off the bench—picking up just over seven minutes per game—mainly because of a stocked veteran rotation of guards holding the slots in front of the true frosh.
Given York's potential for immediate offensive production, and a penchant for dramatics, Sean Miller is going to have to consider his backcourt options as the heart of the Wildcats' schedule approaches.
There are several players from which York will not steal playing time this season.
- Mark Lyons, the fifth-year senior transfer from Xavier, dictates Arizona's personality and is the Wildcats' premier attacker of the basket. Hovering at 13.4 points on 45-percent shooting, his slashing ability is key to Arizona's offense. Good luck eating into his court appearances. He's tenacious and already seems to own the respect of his new club.
- Shooting guard Nick Johnson is Arizona's leading scorer, distributor and defender through seven games, totaling 13.6 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals. Besides all that and his well-documented leaping ability, Johnson also brings a steadying influence to the Cats. York will not be cutting into his time on the floor either.
- Kevin Parrom is a Sean Miller favorite. He is rugged physically, hyper-competitive and an irritating defender due to his height at the guard slot. Although he comes off the bench, he's played the crucial stretches in close games and figures to keep that role.
That leaves junior guard Jordin Mayes as the man with the most tenuous situation.
Mayes played key minutes in Arizona's surprise Elite Eight run in 2011 as a frosh, proving himself as a reliable three-point artist, totaling 16 in the third round against Texas. And for a brief moment at the beginning of the 2011 season, the Los Angeles native appeared to be on his way to a substantial role with heavy minutes (TucsonCitizen.com).
But bad feet have plagued his Arizona career, costing him a chunk of last season, and he seems to have developed slower than the rest of his teammates since then (AZCentral.com).
He's not going to harm the Wildcats while he's on the court, but he's not currently adding the type of assets York seems—on tape from his prep days, at least—capable of bringing to the mix.
For the season, Mayes is at 4.6 points in 14.6 minutes per game, shooting 33 percent from three-point range. His assist-to-turnover is a pedestrian 1.7-to-1.3. His main positive is his free-throw stroke, where he's at 83.3 percent for the year.
Those numbers scream eighth man, which is where Mayes finds himself at this point.
Although Arizona's offense is far from struggling, scoring 79.3 points per game, the Wildcats have endured long dry stretches in each of the last two games.
They scored just 27 points through the first 20 minutes against Southern Miss before blowing the bulk of a 14-point lead in a 28-point first half at Clemson.
It's during those drought periods that York's presence seems like it would be most effective, changing the flow with his athleticism while providing a deterrent against the zone with his long-range stroke.
With Arizona's biggest game of the regular season approaching on Saturday against Florida, it will be interesting to see if the fourth freshman's role evolves, especially if the offense get bogged down for a third-straight game.