After the Wildcats lost out on three McDonald’s All-Americans in the past two weeks, many Arizona Wildcat basketball fans were stressing. Many felt that this meant that Sean Miller could not attract big time recruits and would have to settle for “projects”.
Fans on message boards, call-in shows and even my e-mail in-box felt that the Cats were reaching for lesser players. This just isn’t the case.
While it is true the Cats have failed to land a big time, game-ready, elite prospect, they certainly are not settling for players who are not solid prospects. In fact, Lute Olson’s last few teams “settled” far more than Miller has.
Miller’s first recruiting class featured four players in ESPN’s top-100. The only player who was not an ESPN top-100 player was MoMo Jones. Jones was a Rivals top-100 player and was recruited by the likes of Louisville, Florida, Memphis and USC among many others.
The rest of the class were all top-100 according to ESPN:
Kyryl Natyazhko #39
Solomon Hill #54
Derrick Williams #72
Kevin Parrom #86
All of these players were recruited by elite programs. While none of them were top-25 players, or as highly ranked as Doron Lamb, Josh Selby or Ray McCallum, they were hardly borderline prospects headed to low majors had Arizona not swooped in and offered them a scholarship.
This year’s class is not quite as highly rated, but again, not full of slouches. Daniel Bejarano is a top 100 player, albeit rated #92 by ESPN. Jordin Mayes just missed the top-100, but Rivals tabbed him as #106. Mayes had offers from BC, Cal and Oklahoma among others.
JUCO transfer Jesse Perry was not eligible for the top-100 but had offers from a host of Big 12 and SEC schools.
Compare these two classes to the last few Lute Olson classes and you’ll see that Lute attracted a few more “elite” players but a lot more “reaches”. The 2008 class is a strange one. The school originally signed four players, three of whom were top-100 but when the smoke cleared, only two of those players arrived on campus and only the non-top-100 player (Brendan Lavender) every played a game for Arizona.
Because of the defections of Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Negedu, the Cats had to scramble and took in Kyle Fogg, Garland Judkins and D.J. Shumpert. Of those only Fogg is still on the roster.
Some of the other reaches in the Olson era include Alex Jacobson, Kirk Walters, Daniel Dillon and Chris Dunn. The Cats also signed non top-100 players who did little in an Arizona uniform such as Zane Johnson, Jesus Verdejo and Laval-Lucas Perry.
It must be noted that standouts Nic Wise and Jordan Hill were not top-100 players, while guys like Chris Rodgers, Fendi Onobun and Jamelle Horne were all top-75 prospects who had less than illustrious Arizona careers.
Miller has yet to land a top-25 prospect, and to truly return Arizona to the national elite he will have to land some of these players, but he is still landing quality recruits. Five of his seven prep signees have been top-100 players, and the two who weren’t still had their share of top-notch suitors.