Last Thursday, the Arizona Wildcats' 2012-2013 basketball season came to an end with a Sweet 16 loss to Ohio State. On Tuesday, the Wildcats may have gotten the missing piece needed to ensure they advance much deeper in next year's big dance.
That piece was Aaron Gordon, the No. 4 ranked player high school player in the country according to ESPN.com, who announced at a press conference on Tuesday morning in Chicago that he'd attend Arizona. Gordon, who is in town for Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Game, picked the Wildcats over Oregon, Kentucky and Washington.
Gordon is listed at 6'8, 210 pounds, but has athleticism and leaping ability that have led many (including ESPN.com's Dave Telep) to compare him to a young Blake Griffin. Gordon averaged 21.6 points, 15.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.1 blocks this season for Archbishop Mitty in San Jose, Calif.
Here is what Gordon told reporters following his announcement on Tuesday:
"I hope Tucson is celebrating me because I'm about to be a west coast Wildcat," Gordon said. "I hope to be the X-factor there."
An X-factor is exactly what Gordon can be, as he joins a loaded Arizona roster for the 2013-2014 season. Assuming no one unexpectedly declares for the NBA Draft or transfers to another school, the Wildcats will be favored by many to win the Pac-12 and could make a run to the Final Four.
Along with Gordon, Arizona will welcome back three McDonald's All-Americans in the front-court from the 2012 recruiting class, in forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett and center Kaleb Tarczewski. Tarczewski finished as the Wildcats' top rebounder in 2013 at 6.1 per game, to go along with 7.5 points in over 20 minutes a contest. Ashley and Jerrett combined to average just under 13 points and nine rebounds between the two of them.
With those three manning the paint, it appears as though Gordon will take over Solomon Hill's small forward spot in the starting line-up. Hill wrapped up his college career against Ohio State last week with a 16 point, three rebound effort, and finished 2013 averaging 13.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a contest.
Arizona doesn't return quite as much depth on the perimeter as they do up front, but will bring back guards Nick Johnson and Jordin Mayes, along with Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell. Johnson just wrapped up a solid sophomore campaign in which he averaged 11.5 points and a team-high 3.2 assists per game, while Mayes chipped in just 2.8 points per game in a little over 11 minutes of play.
However, the difference could be the emergence of McConnell, a player who many Arizona players recently compared to Ohio State's Aaron Craft. McConnell sat out the 2013 season after transferring from Duquesne, where he averaged 11.5 points and 5.5 assists as a sophomore in 2012.
Arizona will rely on fellow 2013 McDonald's All-American Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to provide depth in both the frontcourt and backcourt as well. Hollis-Jefferson just wrapped up his senior season at Chester High School in Chester, Penn., and can play both the guard and forward positions.