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Arizona basketball: Jeter brings more muscle to senior season

Change in diet helps senior center get more physical

Chase Jeter is a smart young man. He's a three-time academic all-conference selection. He's taking graduate classes at Arizona after earning a degree with what he says is about a 3.7 grade-point average.

"School has always been easy for me," he said with a grin. "I'm a genius. Smartest person you'll ever meet."

Chase Jeter is a smart basketball player. The 6-foot-10 fifth-year senior center has what can rightly be called a high basketball IQ. He's savvy in the post, with clever footwork and spins and double moves to get free or draw fouls.

That brain power and basketball know-how led Jeter to average 10.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season, his first with the Wildcats after sitting out a season following his transfer from Duke.

Now, he's added muscle to his mix.

Some of the things you couldn't say about Jeter last season were that he physical, or that he loved contact, or that he could thrive playing against more burly competition. Maybe this year will be different. Jeter's evolution from the end of last season to the beginning of practice this season includes 15 pounds of muscle, he says.

"I'm gearing my body up," he said Tuesday at Arizona basketball media day.

"I would say last season was truly my first time in college basketball. Not to say that my career at Duke, I didn't appreciate it, I just didn't get to play as much. Really feeling what playing 30 minutes a game was like, knowing what to expect, I did it. Now, I've geared myself into a better mindset.

"I've added to my physicality."

Chase Jeter was injured last season on this fall against Oregon State. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Jeter was injured last season on this fall against Oregon State. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Jeter is listed at 240 pounds. He was listed at 230 last season.

The difference he says is a combination of diet and weight-room dedication.

"One thing a lot of people didn't know about me when I got to Arizona, for about the first year and half, I was vegetarian and vegan for part of it," he said. "I still believe in that but I couldn't really sustain it."

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Jeter added chicken and fish to his diet at the start of last season but the grind of the season prevented him from adding muscle until the offseason.

"I definitely did get bigger over the summer," he said. "Now that I have it, I can sustain it with my diet, paired with my lifting."

He won't have to do all the heavy lifting on the court this season.

He was averaging 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds heading into a January 19 game at Oregon State, when he suffered back injury on a fall underneath the basket. He missed the next two games and wasn't as effective over the final six weeks of the season, as Arizona's lack of front court depth contributed to what coach Sean Miller always calls "death by inches."

This season, the frontcourt is fortified with well put together 6-11 freshman Zeke Nnaji -- "he's a beast physically," Jeter said -- sharp-shooting 6-9 Cornell senior transfer Stone Gettings, promising 7-foot freshman Christian Koloko ... as well as the return of high-energy Ira Lee.

That's plenty of depth, height and offensive versatility.

"I do believe he can bounce from where he was a year ago with that experience, a great offseason and have the best year he's had as a college basketball player," Miller said of Jeter.

"We're counting on him. There aren't many 6-foot-11 fifth-year seniors with the track record of Chase. I think he's a leader, somebody who is a good player that a lot of programs would love to have. Maybe unlike a year ago, we're not counting on him game in and game out to maybe be our leading scorer. He's surrounded by teammates who can take some pressure off him more so than a year ago."

Jeter had options at the end of last season, although he said leaving Arizona as a grad transfer wasn't one of them. He would either try for the NBA or return to the Wildcats.

"Toward the end of last year, I kind of felt stressed out about the whole process of testing the (NBA) waters," he said. "If that was what I was going to do, I wanted to be all in with it. The NBA has been a goal of mine for so long, why should I feel so stressed about it?

"The question answered itself for me, and I figured it was best to come back and have a stronger, healthier senior year."

Happy, healthy ... and smart enough to know life is good right now.

"I'm in a great place," he said. "Most definitely."