Landing quality Class of 2011 point guard important for Arizonaby Javier Morales on Aug. 04, 2010, under Sports
My observations of the following point guard prospects were in bits and pieces, moving from one venue to the next, during a five-day stretch in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.
The Arizona coaching staff has a couple of years, much more communication and a heck of a lot more scouting time put in for the Class of 2011. Take my observations for what their worth, although how can you argue with my opinion that Nick Johnson is the best Class of 2011 prospect Sean Miller and Co. can land?
Signing Johnson goes beyond acquiring an explosive athlete on the perimeter who can play either guard position. He can evolve into a leader at Arizona the same way popular players such as Luke Walton and Richard Jefferson became the backbone of the Wildcats. Johnson can legitimately become the face of the program by the time he is a junior.
A lot has been written and discussed about Miller’s No. 1 recruiting priority for 2011. In my opinion, Johnson, 6-2, from Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep by way of Gilbert, should be 1-A and all the others can slip to the B category. Also well-chronicled is the idea of Johnson and good friend Jahii Carson of Mesa attending the same university, thereby giving the UA a good chance of having both.
Miller and his staff likely want to sign an assertive, scoring point guard such as Carson to complement Johnson. Other top-notch Class of 2011 point guard prospects showing interest in the Wildcats include Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill’s Quinn Cook and Sacramento’s Josiah Turner (who teamed with Johnson over the summer with the Drew Gooden Soldiers).
The chances of landing either Cook or Turner are more remote than acquiring Carson (a prized in-state target), but Cook and Turner have shown interest nonetheless.
Cook and Turner spoke favorably about Miller and his staff, and each talked about wanting to visit the UA campus either officially or unofficially. Turner went so far as to tell me that Arizona is one his leaders among schools he wants to officially visit. Understandably, those comments may have been made because he knew I represented TucsonCitizen.com and WildcatSportsReport.com, but nonetheless, the chance is there for Arizona to improve its standing with them.
Turner, 6-3, has Kansas ahead of Duke and Arizona on his pecking order, according to Rivals.com. Name an East coast power and Cook, 6-1, is likely recruited by its coaches. He told me he narrowed his list to seven East coast and two West coast teams: Arizona, UCLA, Villanova, Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, West Virginia, St. John’s and Georgetown.
UCLA coach Ben Howland and his staff are selling to Carson the NBA standouts the Bruins have produced at the point guard position, which is more impressive than Arizona in the last decade.
The Bruins boast recent point guards who are on the cusp of making it big in the NBA — Jrue Holiday, Russell Westbrook, and Darren Collison. Arizona’s last three regular starting point guards — Jason Gardner, Mustafa Shakur and Nic Wise — have yet to play an NBA game in the regular season.
The letters NBA catch a recruit’s attention as much as the words, “Playing time.” UCLA is offering both to Carson. Hence, Carson’s comment recently that UCLA is the new leader for his services. The merits of that comment lasted a day before Carson started playing in the Duel in the Desert in Phoenix (in front of Miller and ASU coach Herb Sendek) last week.
Arizona can also offer Carson playing time, albeit shared with other guards such as Lamont “MoMo” Jones and the underrated Jordin Mayes. Jones and Mayes project to be off-guards more so than point guards. Make no mistake, Miller and his staff desire a point guard who will unequivocally run the show and be able to score as well (Mike Bibby comes to mind as an example).
UA’s current roster is void of a player with those particular attributes, or it at least lacks somebody proven to be that kind of player on a regular basis.
After observing Carson, Turner and Cook in a few games in Las Vegas, which one would I take over the other if I was a Division I coach? Not to sound like I am sidestepping the question, but it all depends. All of them provide something different.
Cook’s strength is his defense and ability to get his teammates involved. Carson, the best athlete of the three, also excels defensively and he is perhaps the most difficult to defend off the dribble. Turner has more size than Cook and Carson and is more fluid with his shot, mid-range and beyond.
All have the knack for knocking down the three-pointer. Turner, in my opinion, is the best finisher in terms of making his shot in traffic. Cook tops the others in finding the opening man off his penetration. Carson has a quick first step to get past the defender (similar to Turner), although he has room for improvement with how he finishes plays, shooting and passing the ball.
Cook is perhaps the best coach on the floor with his communication skills with teammates and keeping mistakes to a minimum. Landing him will broaden Arizona’s successful East coast recruiting effort led by assistant Book Richardson.
Carson’s importance to Arizona goes beyond his skills being a coveted in-state and West coast player. Turner likewise is important for Miller enhancing his image with California prospects and their coaches.
The UA coaches can’t go wrong with any of them. If they don’t land any, their attention may shift to Cezar Guerrero of Bellflower (St. John Bosco), a Rivals.com Four-Star player who impressed me in Las Vegas with his aggressive style.
Not once in three games that I watched him play for Belmont Shore did he attack the basket out of control. Also not once did I see a defender impede his path to the basket. Guerrero is fearless; the type of player Miller needs at that position to set the tone for others. Guerrero’s size (listed at 6-feet but is more like 5-10) is a concern, and he is not in the same class defensively as Cook and Carson.
If landing Nick Johnson should be 1-A on Arizona’s objectives for the Class of 2011, its 1-B slot should be the guy who complements Johnson the most. Turner and Johnson put on a show with the Drew Gooden Soldiers with alley-oop passes and pushing the ball up the court. Carson and Johnson are good friends with their Arizona backgrounds. Cook and Johnson are not as well connected.
The next three months leading up to the fall signing period are the most important in Miller’s brief time in Arizona. Will he continue what he’s started in terms of solid recruiting, building on his resume for a pivotal Class of 2012? Or will he suffer a setback not signing either Cook, Carson or Turner, which will put increased pressure on the staff to deliver in 2012?