Leanings and commitments change on a dime in the world of recruiting, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright's first interview with Josh Gershon back in 2011 underscores the point. At that time the promising rising sophomore listed UCLA as his clear leader, noting when asked that an early commitment was a possibility.
"If UCLA were to offer Cartwright, would he accept?
'I would take it into real consideration,' he said. 'I would think about it.'"
But of course that's not how events played out for the future Arizona Wildcat. Prior to getting an offer from the Wildcats, however — and before he suited up for his sophomore campaign — Jackson-Cartwright had drawn offers from the Bruins, Arizona State, USC and Washington.
Arizona stepped in with an offer at the end of his sophomore season and upped its pursuit from there. After some false starts, Jackson-Cartwright made his way to Tucson last summer and came away wanting to make a return trip. By last fall he had narrowed his choices to Arizona and UCLA, and he ultimately announced in favor of the Wildcats this past February.
From that point forward, he played with the expectations that accompany any floor general committed to Point Guard U. He sometimes stayed in the background more than he would have liked, but on other occasions he stood out as an impact scorer and distributor.
Speed, slick driving and expert playmaking have become hallmarks. Of the short point guards in the Class of 2014 — and there are numerous players falling into this category — Jackson-Cartwright may be the best at utilizing his left (off) hand. He's a very effective dribbler in either direction and also is a twisting, surprising finisher in traffic.
He squirts through help defense and is able to contort his body in order to loft shots over shotblockers, frequently off the glass. Because he possesses long arms, he can extend more effectively than you might guess.
Jackson-Cartwright also possesses legitimate, if streaky, three-point range. He's by no means an ace from downtown, but opponents who heed his driving too much can pay the price. He also can stop short and hit mid-range jumpers, including runners and teardrops.
But his playmaking may be his most alluring hoops quality. Jackson-Cartwright is a very talented passer who uses those long arms to wrap interior passes around the waists of big men rotating over to help, and he's also a heady and creative handler and distributor on the break. Along with the ability to call his own number to finish, few guards are more effective in transition.
Defensively, he's able to pick up steals using quick hands and feet, and he's unafraid of tossing his slight frame into the mix to come away with a loose ball.
He showcased all these skills at the EYBL Finals this past July. He enjoyed several huge assists games and also added clutch scoring in the playoff rounds prior to Cal Supreme's ultimate defeat.
Not surprisingly, height and muscle stand out as the gravest limitations. If he doesn't grow any further, he must uncover ways to compensate for the given physical disadvantages.
To wit, how will he deal with big, physical defenders who can keep him out of the lane? And will he be able to keep them out of the lane on the other end?
He also struggled with ankle injuries that hampered him during the spring, possibly due at least in part to his lack of lower body strength.
He also has been inconsistent at times from the foul line, something that obviously looms big as he'll be the team's primary ballhandler.
Without question, and size taken into account, Jackson-Cartwright could become one of the Pac-12's best freshmen in 2014-15. His athleticism and speed will prove major factors in the success he enjoys, but on top of that he boasts a very sharp head on his shoulders and may be able to adjust to the mental demands of the collegiate level more quickly than others.
His long-term professional future naturally appears murkier due to his physical constraints, but he wouldn't be the first mini-sized guard to pave a route to the NBA. Additionally, there's a history of late growth in his family and perhaps he'll get another inch or two before he's finished.