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UA head coach Sean Miller: Aaron Gordon’s ‘greatest gift’ that he’s a hard worker

At Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Day in San Francisco, the Arizona men’s basketball team received 21 of 23 first place votes to win the conference ahead of the likes of UCLA, Colorado and Oregon.

The preseason expectations are no surprise for the Wildcats, though.

Sean Miller and Co. are coming off an impressive run to the Sweet 16 in 2012-13, have a veteran backcourt made up junior Nick Johnson and transfer T.J. McDonnell, a developing front court in sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley and a talented freshman class highlighted by Elliott Pitts, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon.

The latter of which was the topic of conversation by the Bay Thursday.

Miller was asked if he has any intention of handling Gordon, a five-star recruit from Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, differently from other players on his roster this season because of his expected one-and-done status.

His response suggested that there would be no star treatment in Tucson.

“We like to say the standards of our program are the standards,” Miller said. “Whether you’re a senior or freshman, whether you start or you’re a non-scholarship player, we have the same expectations for everybody. And when that’s the case, that takes care of itself.

“But with this year’s freshman class — but in particular Aaron Gordon. He’s a very easy guy to deal with because his greatest strength isn’t his ability as a basketball player. To me his greatest gift that he’s given his teammates and us is that he’s an incredibly hard worker. He’s extremely focused. He’s somebody that is tireless in his own approach to be great.”

Johnson, who accompanied Miller at Pac-12 Media Day, played with the 6-foot-8 Gordon when the two were teens playing on the AAU circuit and also was effusive in his praise of the highly-touted forward.

“Like Coach [Miller] said, he just comes in every single day and works hard,” Johnson said. “When he first got here this summer he actually sent a text and he just told me anything you need or anything you want to tell me to help ease in my transition, go for it.

“And, I mean, coming from a McDonald’s All-American and that highly rated of a player, I knew right away what kind of a person we had in him. So he’s a joy to be around and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”

Johnson will get that chance starting on Friday Nov. 8, when the Wildcats open up their 2013-14 season against Cal Poly at the McKale Center.