Christmas comes early for UA basketball coaches

Sean Miller and his Arizona coaching staff got some good news over the weekend, as the first basketball commitments rolled in from recruits to the Classes of 2012 and 2013.

It’s generally acknowledged that the Wildcats have one of the best recruiting classes in the country for 2011, which includes Miller’s first Five-Star recruit in Josiah Turner, the best high school point guard in California, and local standout, Gilbert’s Nick Johnson, the No. 8 shooting guard in the country.

Miller hit the recruiting trail as soon as he arrived in Tucson in April  of 2009 and picked up Derrick Williams, this season’s leading scorer, in California.  Then he added the top prospect in Arizona, Daniel Bejarano, the next year, along with Jordin Mayes, the No. 28 shooting guard in the country (Rivals.com).

And just before Saturday’s game against Kansas, Miller picked up verbal commitments from Grant Jerrett to start the Class of 2012, and Eric Cooper, Jr., who is the first Class of 2013 commit.

Jerrett is a 6’8″ power forward who is ranked No. 12 in the ESPNU Super 60 and Cooper is a 6’3″ shooting guard who is considered the No. 13 player overall in the Class of 2013 (HoopScoop).  Both play for Lutheran High School in LaVerne, Calif.

Cooper, whose father played at the UofA in the 80’s, is a combo guard who scores off the dribble or from behind the three-point line equally well.  Jerrett is a Five-Star prospect who has all the signs of being a dominant face-up player in college, but can also score off the dribble.

The Cats are displaying the results of a couple of good recruiting classes already with a 5-1 record, the best start in eight years.  Their only loss was Saturday against the No. 6 team in the country, Kansas, and that was by just eight points.  The Jayhawks won their first five games by an average margin of 41 points, the best in the country.

The Jayhawks had six players in double figures in Saturday’s game and shot 54 percent from the field.

Williams had 27 points and eight rebounds for Arizona before fouling out with 2 1/2 minutes left to play.  The Cats were down by as many as 16 points early but came back to take a four-point lead early in the second half, but too many turnovers and the loss of Williams was too much to overcome.

Tomorrow night, the Cats deal with their first true road game of the season (discounting tournament play) as they hit the road to Houston to take on the 3-3 Rice Owls, members of Conference USA.

Rice is averaging 69 points a game, but couldn’t manage that many in a 62-59 loss at Texas in its last game.  But the Owls play well at home in Tudor Fieldhouse, beating their last three visiting opponents by an average of 19 points.

Last year was the first time UofA and Rice met on the hardwood.  The Cats had four players in double figures and led by as many as 18 points enroute to a 66-49 win.

This year, however, Arizona is averaging 80 points a game away from McKale Center.  If the Owls want to even the score, they’ll likely need more than their usual 69 points.