Unsung York instrumental in Arizona’s success

Wildcats guard Gabe York celebrates after making a shot against Mount St. Mary's earlier this season at McKale Center.

Casey Sapio/Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

TUCSON, Ariz. — As the ball caromed off the back of the goal on what would have been a rim-rattling dunk last week against Cal, Arizona guard Gabe York knew he missed a golden opportunity to show off his jumping ability.

But those who know him — and have seen him — know York can jump. He won the Arizona dunk contest as a freshman. More importantly and more recently, York showed he can flat out play.

In the past couple months, York played some of the best basketball of his career. York averages 9.1 points per game and shoots a team-leading 80 percent from the free throw line as the second-seeded Wildcats head to the NCAA Tournament to face Texas Southern on Thursday in Portland, Ore.

Gabe York attempts a dunk against Cal’s Tyrone Wallace in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

"Even though I missed it," York said of the dunk, "I think I opened a lot of people’s eyes. I don’t think a lot of people know I can jump. People in Tucson might know that I can jump, but I think I just missed it."

York’s confidence and a lack of outside influences are what have him playing so well. His thinking problem is gone because he’s decided to stop the outside world from creeping into his.

"I just deleted all my social media," said York, who in the past month was more hit than miss. "I have a clear mind. I don’t have to worry about looking at Instagram or Twitter (to see) if someone is talking good or bad about me.

"I have a clear mind of what I want to do (and) what I want to accomplish. There are so many people in the world that might be jealous. When I deleted all that stuff, I gave myself a clear mind and I went into practice and worked as hard as I could. It just started falling for me."

It makes him wish he would have done it much earlier. But, hey, better late than never. He couldn’t have picked a better time. He scored in double figures in five of his last eight games and hit huge shots to give Arizona momentum in the last three.

Those last three were in the Pac-12 tournament, where York was 6 for 14 from beyond the 3-point line. He finished 10th in the Pac-12 in 3-point accuracy at 39 percent.

"He doesn’t get enough credit right now for how our team is playing or how our team is playing offensively," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "He’s a real part of our success."

And not just because he can shoot 3s, Miller said, but because "he adds fire power."

If some of the distraction issues were a result of outside forces, Miller said, he’s all for having it dismissed. But to each his own, and reason why he hasn’t put a cease and desist order with his players regarding social media now or in the NCAA Tournament.

"We want to encourage each of our players to be who they are," Miller said. "At this time of year and what we are trying to accomplish as a team and what they are trying to accomplish as a student-athlete, I think it’s important to determine what’s relevant to your success and what’s irrelevant."

Some of the irrelevant are the negatives on the Internet and beyond, Miller said. The relevant is how ready the player is for practice and how prepared he is for games and the day.

"We talk a lot about it as a team," Miller said. "I’m sure everybody is doing it in today’s world."

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