Can Angelo Chol become the next Derrick Williams?

The very last 2011 recruit to the University of Arizona basketball team is now looking like the most important acquisition in a top-10 recruiting class.

When Derrick Williams announced on Wednesday that he was going to make himself available for the NBA draft and would soon close the door on a return to college by hiring an agent, the stock of Angelo Chol skyrocketed.

Williams, a 6’8″ sophomore forward, literally put the Wildcats on his broad shoulders and carried them to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament and a final ranking of No. 9 in the nation – the first top-10 ranking in almost a decade.  The squad’s 30-8 mark is just the fourth time in school history that a team has won 30 or more games

His departure leaves a huge hole in the middle of the Cats’ game, right under the basket.

And that’s where Mr. Chol is most effective.

Chol, a 6’9″ power forward from California, should be able to fill that void, sooner rather than later.  He brings both an offensive scoring ability and an intimidating inside presence on defense – ala Derrick Williams.

Actually, Arizona very nearly missed the opportunity to bring him into the Wildcat family.  He was the best big man left on the board and was heavily wooed by the others on his short list, which included heavyweights Kansas and North Carolina, before he committed to Arizona in mid-February.

The four-star prospect was the No. 43 college prospect, as rated by, and will likely provide some immediate help in the very spot that Williams is vacating.  It may take him a couple of years to get where Williams has left off, but his predecessor also took a year to mature.

Even though Williams was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, his real impact wasn’t felt until his sophomore year, when he led the team with 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.  He scored in double figures 37 times, posted 13 double-doubles, and recorded the two highest single-game rebounding totals in the conference this season.

Those are big shoes to fill.  But Chol may be up to the task.  Consider this…

During his sophomore year at Hoover High School in San Diego, Chol recorded 337 blocked shots to set a national high school record.  His 19 blocked shots in one game during that season also established a new San Diego city single-game record.

By the time he got to his senior season, he was averaging 23 points, 15 rebounds, and eight blocked shots a game.

Not bad for a kid that was born in the Sudan and didn’t pick up a basketball until middle school.

And he was extremely efficient in running up his double-digit average last season.  He connected on 49 percent of his shots from the field, and hit 34 percent of his three-point attempts.

The late addition of Chol to the 2011 recruiting class propelled that group from a No. 12 national ranking to No. 8.

Already included in that class of top prospects are five-star guard Josiah Turner and four-star prospects, Nick Johnson at guard and Sidiki Johnson in the forward slot.  They will be vying for spots on a roster that will include three returning starters and a strong bench that will be looking to upgrade to starting roles next season.

But the man in the middle next year will likely be the key to the Wildcats getting back to the NCAA Tournament and starting another long string of post-season appearances.

And the Cats appear to have that man waiting in the wings.