Citizen Staff Writer
ARIZONA WILDCATS BASKETBALL
It’s been an “action-packed” two weeks for new Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller, going from here to there and seemingly everywhere for recruits, family and UA.
“Change really makes you hustle,” Miller said Thursday in his first news conference since he was introduced two weeks ago as the new coach. He’s been in Tucson and on UA’s campus just half the time, if that, he said.
His hustle has resulted in two recruit signings – 6-foot-6 Solomon Hill and 6-10 Kyryl Natyazhko – and a few thousand frequent flier miles.
Miller said he’s hoping to add at least one more player, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.
“(If) we take somebody this spring,” he said, “I’d hope we’d want him a year from now and two years from now.”
Miller declined to speak about Hill and Natyazhko. He intends to talk about his entire recruiting class when it’s completed. It’s not clear where UA stands with Tremayne Johnson, a 6-7 forward who committed to the program in the winter.
In a text to the Citizen on Thursday, Johnson said he had not spoken to Miller yet but “maybe he’s making me his last recruit.”
Miller said he won’t go after recruits just to go after them.
“I don’t even know if there are eight available 2009 prospects that are Arizona good,” Miller said. “For us to make the right decisions with who we scholarship and who we bring in with our first class, I’m more concerned with that. I’m more concerned with having the proper (people) to make our ship sail.”
If no more than two or three recruits are signed, UA still could have a “significant” class next year.
As of now, UA has seven returning players, eight if UA guard Nic Wise were to return for his senior year.
Last week, Wise announced he would declare for the NBA, but he did not hire an agent. Miller said he’s unsure what Wise will do, but they have met a couple of times to discuss his situation.
The NBA has been one of Miller’s strongest selling points to recruits, along with the “high stature of the program.”
“That’s the name of the game (in) being able to continue the legacy coach (Lute) Olson and his staff (have) done for so long,” Miller said. “The reception we’ve gotten as a staff has been terrific.”
The history of the program is selling itself, something that has happened throughout recent years.
Miller said if you look at the NBA playoffs right now, Arizona has a “2-to-2 1/2-hour commercial” with Mike Bibby (Atlanta), Luke Walton (Los Angeles), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia) and many more in the playoffs.
“That’s their dream,” Miller said of recruits wanting to be in the NBA. “They want to make that happen for themselves.”
Miller said one of his regrets about not having been around Tucson much was not being able to spend a lot of time with the current team.
“They understand what’s going on,” he said. “(I’m) getting to know them bit by bit and day by day, making sure they understand that by far the most important thing is that our players get treated the right way.”
Miller has spoken with former interim coach Russ Pennell about the team “and he was very helpful. . . . It really allowed me to get to know the players through the coaches’ eyes.”
Miller said he anticipates freshman Garland Judkins, who had been suspended off and on throughout this past season, to be back on next year’s team.
Judkins had been suspended for the season’s final two months.
“I told everyone of those guys I want to give them a fresh start,” Miller said. “I want to be the coach who really solidifies things. All those guys have been through an awful lot. That’s always the unknown.”
Also unknown is just how good UA will be next year.
Will the Wildcats make it to 26 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, extending the current NCAA mark for appearances? North Carolina has the record at 27.
“For me to walk around and fear that and walk around not to think that’s part of the deal would be foolish,” Miller said of the high expectations.
Possible UA starting lineup in 2009-10:
Pos. Player Cl.
• Jamelle Horne Jr.
• Solomon Hill Fr.
C Kyryl Natyazhko Fr.
G Nic Wise* Sr.
G Kyle Fogg So.
* If Wise doesn’t stay in NBA draft