Brandon Ashley boosts UA hoops Class of 2012 to No. 1

Sean Miller isn’t ready yet to pack his bags for the Final Four.  Or even buy any airline tickets.

But he might be ready to start browsing through the travel brochures.

The head basketball coach at the University of Arizona just added a key piece to his 2012 recruiting class and, as a result, ESPN has just moved their rating for that class to No. 1 in the nation, ousting Indiana from that lofty honor.

That makes it two Top 10 recruiting classes in a row.  The 2011 class, which will be on the floor in November, was ranked as high as fourth by Rivals.com and seventh by ESPN.

It’s positively scary what Miller has been able to accomplish since taking over just a little more than two years ago, inheriting a tradition-rich program that had fallen into disarray following the departure of hall of fame coach, Lute Olson, in the midst of an NCAA investigation.

This latest recruiting gem took Miller more than two years to acquire, as he followed five-star prospect, Brandon Ashley, from gym to gym during the summer club seasons and caught as many high school games as possible.

Over time, the two developed a solid relationship and a mutual respect.

When the 6’8″ power forward dropped in for an unplanned campus visit over the weekend, it all came to a head as Ashley gave the persistent coach a verbal commitment to play at Arizona.

The athletic big man is the highest-rated player yet to commit to the 42-year-old coach who was wildly successful during his five years as Xavier’s head coach before taking over in Tucson.  Ashley is a top 10 player in just about everyone’s rating system and generally regarded as the best forward on the West Coast recruiting circuit.  ESPN has him ranked as No. 2 in the country at his position.

He has an abundance of pure athletic ability and can run the floor well, as well as be very effective in the paint.  He will fit well into the Wildcat style of offense, giving them a scoring threat inside and a solid player on defense.

Ashley becomes the third top-30 commit in the Class of 2012, joining the No. 24 overall prospect (MaxPreps), Gabe York at shooting guard, and No. 9 (ESPNU), Grant Jerrett, another power forward.  He will hone his game during his senior year at the basketball factory in Nevada called Findlay Prep, which he transferred to from Bishop O’Dowd High School in California.

This acquisition leaves Miller with just one scholarship remaining for the 2012 class, and he would like to fill that with a big man.  At the top of his list would probably be a 7-footer named Kaleb Tarczewski, who is also being heavily wooed by Kentucky.

Miller stole Ashley from the clutches of John Calipari at Kentucky, one of the other teams on the youngster’s list of final four schools in the running for his services.  He also got offers from UCLA and Oregon, his other finalists.

There’s no telling what Miller is going to be able to accomplish with these two recruiting classes.  But, if last year is any indication, there should be a national title run in there somewhere.

Last year, he took a team that didn’t include a single blue-chip recruit to the Elite Eight.

Imagine what he will do with the talent he has coming on line.

(Photo credit: NationofBlue)