College basketball is a lot like the game of chess. Not just on the court, where you have to anticipate and counter line-up changes, but in the recruiting process as well.
While a head coach is focusing on the game on the floor, he also has to have one eye on the recruiting class that will boost his program next season, and the one after that.
No one is doing it better right now than University of Arizona head coach, Sean Miller. He and his staff have loaded the cupboards so that they may soon be able to turn some of their attention down the road to the 2013 class.
Miller got things off to a great start in his first season as the Wildcats’ new boss, when he picked up Solomon Hill and Derrick Williams in 2009 and parlayed those acquisitions into the foundation of his rebuilding program. The Cats went 16-15 that first year, but went 30-8 (undefeated at home) and won the Pac-10 title before advancing to the Elite Eight in last year’s NCAA Tournament, where they lost by two points to eventual national champion, Connecticut.
The 2011 class that will be taking the floor next November was ranked as the fourth-best class in the country by Rivals, anchored by five-star guard Josiah Turner, plus off-guard Nick Johnson and premier big man, Angelo Chol. All three are ranked in the Top-10 at their respective positions.
Now it looks like the Class of 2012 is shaping up to be one of the best in the country again. Nothing like winning to attract winners.
“That old adage, ‘success breeds success’ really is true, especially in college basketball” admits Miller as he reflects on his latest recruiting successes. “I think we have a lot of motivated players this off-season so that we can get back to work, reach our goals, and have the same type of fulfillment that we did last season.
“We feel good with where we’re at right now.”
And that was last week, before he snagged his latest commit, a high-scoring, high-ranked recruit named Gabe York from Orange Lutheran High School in California, who signed on Sunday to join the 2012 class.
He must really be feeling good this week. The future of his program is falling into place.
York is a four-star recruit that is ranked by Scout as the No. 62 prospect in the coming senior class. He’s primarily recognized as a shooting guard, but has been working on his ball handling and decision-making in hopes of being able to play point guard at the college level.
There’s also some disagreement about his size, with reports that range anywhere from 6’1″ and 170 pounds to 6’2″ and 185. Either way, he will be one of the smaller guards playing in the Pac-12, unless he gets a growth spurt and hits the weight room hard during his senior season.
But he has learned to compensate for his lack of size. He has an incredibly effective jump shot from 25 feet out that he gets off thanks to a high release, and can shoot the three as well. Scouting reports say he doesn’t have great athleticism, but he’s effective in the transition game and has the body control to get points in the paint.
As a junior at Orange Lutheran, he averaged 19.3 points and three assists a game.
More than one reference has compared him to former Arizona State guard, Eddie House, who is now enjoying a successful pro career.
He reportedly turned away from his consideration of Louisville and Notre Dame and focused on Washington, Marquette, and Arizona before picking the Cats.
The acquisition of York means that the Wildcat class of 2012 is halfway there. In November, Miller wrapped up a commitment from Grant Jerrett, a Top 5 power forward and five-star prospect from La Verne, Calif. The 6’9″ center is generally considered one of the best big men on the West Coast.
Miller’s staff needs just two more, probably both big men, to close out its 2012 class – which gives them a chance to focus even farther down the road and begin lining up the 2013 recruits.
“When you experience what we experienced a year ago, you really want to get back to that, time and time again,” said Miller.
And, thanks to some astute recruiting, the Cats may be on the way to doing just that.