Arizona Guard Gabe York’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
Before a team practice, Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller calls freshman guard Gabe York into his office. He rips into him about his effort on the defensive side of the ball.
Coming out of Orange Lutheran High School in West Covina, California, York was a top-50 recruit in the nation. However, none of his high school accomplishments matter here in Tucson, Arizona. If he cannot give great defensive effort every night, he will not play regardless of his offensive ability.
York walks back to the locker room to get ready for practice. After the team is finished, he pulls his teammate, TJ McConnell, to the side and asks to play him one-on-one to better his game.
“I’ve never seen a guy work so hard and be so obsessed with becoming a better defender,” said McConnell. “He was a tremendous defender for us this year. He is always working on his game, and that’s what I love about him.”
York took on Miller’s personal challenge to improve his defensive prowess. Two years later, he has become one of Arizona’s better perimeter defenders.
In an interview last year with FOX Sports West, Miller compared York’s early struggles to where he is now.
“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,” Miller said.
York definitely struggled adjusting to the college pace of basketball. He averaged only 5.8 minutes per game and 2.4 points per game his freshman year. Not many top recruits would stay after a season like this, but York is far from the norm.
“I had a goal in mind. I knew it was going to take one to two years to get where I wanted to be,” said York. He [Miller] told me to trust the process and him as a coach. I feel like God has brought me here to be part of this program.”
York’s trust was rewarded. During his sophomore campaign, he averaged 21.8 minutes per game, 6.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
York was a spark off the bench to an Arizona team that had experienced, strong starters such as PAC-12 first team all-defensive guard TJ McConnell, and now two promising NBA rookies, Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson.
“A lot of kids in today’s world, when they don’t play a lot as a college freshman, they leave, point fingers, and they start over,” Miller said. “When they start over, they have success at the next place. Well, many times they would have had success at our place, except they never gave it a chance (FOX Sports).
Maligned as a freshman, improved as a sophomore, now, York is one of the leaders of the Wildcats his junior year. Gordon and Johnson accounted for 39.2% of the team points, 46.4% of the team rebounds, and were one of three players to start in all 38 games for Arizona as well.
Forwards Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and guards TJ McConnell and Gabe York return to a young Wildcats’ team as the leaders in points, minutes, and assists. Arizona posted an overall 33-5 record, with a 15-3 record in the PAC-12.
Arizona held a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but they failed to reach the Final Four as they fell to Wisconsin by one point in the Elite Eight.
“We know we left some money on table last year in the tournament versus Wisconsin,” said York. “As an unit, right now, we are just looking forward to the next practice and getting better as a team.”
If Arizona is going to accomplish their goals, York must break out on the scene this year, and there is no reason to believe he won’t.
“Since I’ve been here, I think Gabe has improved the most,” said McConnell. “He is a relentless worker. He is always in the gym trying to get better at something.”
Now, York is expected to answer the bell again to be a leader and help carry the load offensively on this young team. This offseason, he has gone back into the gym and the film room to continue to improve his defense and is looking to score in different ways as well.
Every time York has been challenged, he has responded positively. His game has grown exponentially every season. He is a solid defender, a diverse scorer, and as the coaching staff and his teammates can attest this offseason, an emerging vocal leader.
“Gabe and I are trying to show the new guys how it’s done at Arizona,” said McConnell. “You have to work hard every day. There are no days off. We don’t take shortcuts here.”
York doesn’t like to look ahead much. However, there is one challenge lingering in the distance: the NBA.
“In my eyes, hopefully, I’ll be an NBA player,” said York. “That’s my dream. That’s my goal. I know it’s not going to be as easy as saying it aloud, but I’m working hard every day towards that.”