Shot-blocker extraordinaire Angelo Chol to join Arizona’s heralded Class of 2011by Javier Morales on Feb. 17, 2011, under Sports
NOTE: Updates with quotes from San Diego Hoover High School coach Ollie Goulston.
If Class of 2011 post player Angelo Chol had his way, the Arizona basketball T-shirt he wore to Thursday’s press conference would be all that he needed to convey what program he’ll represent starting next season.
Chol, who announced he will play at Arizona at San Diego Hoover’s auditorium and in front of an Internet audience at KBCSports.com, would rather shy away from all of the attention.
“One of his biggest fears is public speaking,” Hoover coach Ollie Goulston told me via phone after the press conference. “He got the chance to work through that fear today.
“He is very unselfish, very humble.I told him, ‘You either have a press conference and get it out of the way, or expect the media to be calling you every day.’ He did not hesitate to have the press conference.”
Arizona coach Sean Miller and his staff, who beat North Carolina, Kansas, Washington and Alabama for the prized recruit, knew of Chol’s intentions 10 minutes before the shot-blocker extraordinaire exposed his Arizona T-shirt for the world to see. Chol personally informed Kansas coach Bill Self and North Carolina coach Roy Williams — the two other finalists for his services — of his decision before contacting Miller.
“He called the coaches himself,” Goulston said. “He’s built some strong relationships with some of them so it was very difficult on him. It was one of those life lessons he had to experience.
“He learned an awful lot and gained a lot of maturity through this process.”
Chol said “Bear Down” at the press conference, when asked about his decision. For Miller and Arizona’s basketball fans, that’s all Chol had to say.
But he later mentioned that the likelihood for playing opportunities and the chance to join the heralded Class of 2011, which includes Rivals.com 5-star recruit Josiah Turner of Winston-Salem (N.C.) Quality Education Academy, was a significant reason for his decision.
“I wanted to be in a situation where I can play and have a chance to win a (national) championship,” said Chol. “I feel we will have a good chance with the class coming in.”
A Sudanese refugee, who came to the United States in 2000 after a brief stop in Egypt, Chol is averaging 24.1 points, 14.9 rebounds and 8.0 blocked shots per game this season. In a December win over El Centro (Calif.) Southwest, Chol posted a line of 40 points, 19 rebounds and 15 blocked shots. He is also just 10 points shy of 2,000 for his career.
He has 224 blocked shots this season and 1,078 for his career. He set a single-season national record of 337 as a sophomore.
Other than Turner, the members of Miller’s heralded class of 2011 include Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep guard Nick Johnsonand Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy forward Sidiki Johnson.
Veteran recruiting guru Van Coleman, who launches Hot100Hoops.com today and is formerly of Hoopmasters.com, told me that Chol “will make an immediate impact for the Wildcats on the glass and at the back of the defense.”
“Angelo is a long and athletic shot blocker and rebounder who can change the game in the paint on both ends of the court,” Coleman said. “He averages near a triple-double every night in high school versus double and triple team schemed defenses.
“But, what has really started to come into focus for him this season is his offensive game, where he has learned to use his length to score over opponents on the block with a solid jump hook and use his quickness to beat defenders to the rim and finish with highlight dunks or kiss off the glass. No doubt, he will compliment the face-up talents of Sidiki Johnson with his ability to catch and finish around the basket.”
“His addition to the Arizona class gives the Cats a legit shot at cracking the top five in our final recruiting classes this spring.”
Goulston told me Chol will provide Arizona “the same consistent effort night in and night out.”
“He also brings a lot of versatility with his defense and scoring ability,” Goulston added. “On top of that, he is a high-character guy who any coach would love to have in his program.”
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyers mentioned last week in his weekly “Mailbag” feature that adding Chol would elevate Arizona’s class from No. 9 nationally to No. 5.
“A big part of that push, however, is from the rising stock of Nick Johnson,” Meyers wrote.
Nick Johnson, a 6-2, 175-pound, athlete who hails from Gilbert, averages 17.5 points, 4 assists and 2.7 steals a game for nationally renowned Findlay (25-3).
Quality Education Academy is 6-0 since Turner’s transfer there from Sacramento High School. Turner (6-3, 175) averaged 22.7 points at Sacramento, and is averaging close to 14 with QEA (which has five major-college prospects including Turner).
Sidiki Johnson (6-8, 220) is working his way into the Oak Hill rotation after missing most of the season with a hairline stress fracture in his left foot. In a nationally televised game last week on ESPN2, Johnson looked impressive in Oak Hill’s 78-64 win over Arden (N.C.) Christ School, which features Duke signee Marshall Plumlee.
In the Rivals.com Top 150 rankings for the Class of 2011, Chol rates No. 76. Turner is No. 10, Nick Johnson No. 41 and Sidiki Johnson No. 71.
Goulston said Chol’s decision to attend Arizona was based on Miller and the coaching staff (assistant Book Richardson helped Miller the most) and the playing opportunity starting next year. Arizona does not return a player with his type of defensive skills. Kansas and North Carolina also have returning starters and prominent reserves at the power forward and post player positions for the 2011-12 seasons.
“It was not one factor; it was a combination of factors,” Goulston said of Chol’s decision. “He liked the coaching staff, the playing opportunity, the players, the school itself, where that program is headed … all the positives and it was clear to him that Arizona was his best opportunity.”
Chol added that playing for Miller is enticing because of the coach’s development of former Xavier standout Derrick Brown (now with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats) and potential NBA lottery pick Derrick Williams.
“They (the coaches) feel like I can be like those guys,” Chol said.
This class rates among the best amassed at Arizona, rivaling — in my opinion — Fred Snowden‘s first class in 1973 that included standouts Eric Money, Coniel Norman, Al Fleming and Jim Rappis; Lute Olson’s first class in 1983 that included Steve Kerr, Pete Williams and Eddie Smith; the 1985 class that had Sean Elliott, Anthony Cook and Kenny Lofton; and the 1998 class that featured Luke Walton, Richard Jefferson and Michael Wright.
The spring signing period starts April 13. Verbal commitments are non-binding and Miller and his coaching staff are not allowed to comment on Chol until he signs his national letter of intent.
When asked if Chol’s commitment is firm, Goulston was adamant about his announcement Thursday being the final step in the recruiting process. Portland (Ore.) Jefferson product Terrence Jones shocked Washington last year by announcing he would play for the Huskies, only to change his mind the very day after talking to Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“You must not be familiar with my players and my program,” Goulston chuckled after I asked how firm Chol’s commitment is to Arizona. “When my guys make a decision, that’s it. My guys don’t waver. When it’s done, it’s done.”
Chol’s inclusion on the 2011-12 roster means the Wildcats are three over their scholarship limit of 12.
The regular NCAA-mandated amount is 13, but Arizona will serve a self-imposed penalty of 12 scholarships in 2011-12 because of the Lute Olson recruiting letter snafu in 2008. The NCAA enforced a similar restriction for the 2012-13 season.
It has been publicly speculated that Derrick Williams will forego his final two years to enter the NBA draft, although that won’t be determined until the NBA Early Entry Eligibility Deadline on April 24.
How the scholarship situation will work itself out won’t likely be determined until after the season concludes.