Guard Gabe York was lost in the shuffle of Arizona’s star-studded 2012 recruiting class.
A 4-star prep prospect out of Southern California’s Orange Lutheran, York was not initially seeing the playing time of fellow newcomers Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett. He averaged just 5.8 minutes per game in 2012-’13 — hardly enough time to demonstrate his pure jump-shooting stroke, but ample time to expose his defensive inefficiencies.
Gabe York could have understandably transferred in the 2013 offseason. But two years later, he’s a key contributor to the Wildcats’ Sweet 16 run and a critical weapon for Arizona to reach its first Final Four since 2001.
“He’s really emerged,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said after Saturday’s Round of 32 win over Ohio State, per ASAPSports.com. “Tonight was another great example. We needed him and he delivered.
“He’s really a big, big part of what we’ve done all year long.”
One of the most pressing questions for Arizona heading into the NCAA Tournament was how it would address the scoring droughts that Arizona teams have been susceptible to in recent seasons.
Ohio State’s zone vexed the Wildcats early, but Gabe York almost singlehandedly busted the Buckeyes’ defense early in the second half.
“Tonight, I wanted to be aggressive, but also know that my teammates were going to find me in transition or throughout the zone with however many seconds were left on the shot clock,” York said. “I just did a great job of knocking down shots today.”
And how? York connected on 5-of-9 3-pointers, made all four of his free-throw attempts and finished tied with backcourt mate T.J. McConnell to lead all scorers with 19 points. He also came one dunk attempt away from owing Portland’s Moda Center a new roof.
Gabe York’s contribution is an interesting one in that he ascended through Arizona’s ranks the old-fashioned way.
College basketball’s life cycle isn’t what it once was, when freshmen typically came into programs as the understudies to more seasoned upperclassmen. The first year or two in the program was spent developing in anticipation of taking over as a team leader as an upperclassmen.
York followed that blueprint to become the key figure he is in Arizona’s current run.
And, as much as York’s shooting is central to Arizona maximizing its NCAA Tournament potential, his improved defense is the biggest factor in him finding those minutes that eluded him as a freshman.
Last March, Miller lauded the strides York made from 2012 to 2014, saying: “If I judge Gabe York from where he would have been early in his freshman year defensively to where he is now, it’s like a young kid becoming an adult.”
His maturation has carried over into this season in virtually all phases. York’s seen improvements in his point-per-game average, from 6.7 to 9.1; in 3-point shooting, from .385 to .396; and free-throw shooting, from .673 to .814.
Fittingly, he’s also made his biggest strides within the 2014-’15 campaign as it’s progressed. York went on a tear of five straight double-digit-point games from late February into March, including a 12-point effort at Utah.
That outing was significant in that York’s put-back of a missed free throw and second-half 3-pointer with Arizona trailing by six were two turning points in the 63-57 win; a win that guaranteed Arizona the Pac-12 regular-season championship.
Gabe York has indeed proven himself worthy not only of minutes, but minutes in Arizona’s most critical situations.