Obviously not content with having what many consider the nation’s top group of incoming recruits for the coming season, Sean Miller continues to shuffle the deck in his University of Arizona basketball program.
The third-year head coach recently added a high-school recruit from California that gives him not only one of the top scoring guards in the sunshine state, but also adds a famous name to his roster.
And it’s just the latest move in a flurry of activity down in the Old Pueblo.
Jacob Hazzard, the grandson of Walt Hazzard, signed on as a “preferred” walk-on, which means he was recruited by Miller and his staff, but won’t take up the final scholarship for that class. Instead, he will be in line for a future scholarship opportunity.
Hazzard’s grandfather was a member of UCLA’s undefeated 1963-64 squad that won one of many of that school’s national championships under legendary coach, John Wooden. He was selected the College Player of the Year and had his jersey number retired in 1996.
Walt Hazzard also helped the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in 1964 and went on to enjoy a successful NBA career, playing for five different teams. He returned to UCLA as a head coach in the ’80s, taking the Bruins to a Pac-10 title in 1987.
So his grandson has some big sneakers to fill, but obviously has the lineage to be successful at the college game. His grandfather didn’t live long enough to see him in a Wildcat uniform; he died last November.
But Hazzard’s addition to the roster is just the latest in a crazy month for the Arizona program, a month that began with the loss of starting point guard, Josiah Turner, who decided to transfer after spending too much time in Miller’s dog house following team rules violations.
Then the 6’11″ center from the Ukraine, Kyryl Natyazhko, decided to leave the program to pursue the idea of playing professionally in Europe. Natyazhko was a member of Miller’s first recruiting class, but never realized his potential, averaging 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in his three years as a Wildcat.
But at about the same time that these departures were going on, Miller added a junior college forward and a D-I guard to the rapidly-changing landscape.
Matt Korcheck, a 6’9″ forward who played his JUCO ball at Cochise College in southeastern Arizona, averaged 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds last season for the Apaches. And he adds a little local flavor to the roster, attending not only Cochise but also graduating from Sabino High School in Tucson.
Right on the heels of that announcement came word that Miller had also snapped up a 6’1″ point guard who had decided to leave the Duquesne basketball program, where he was the team’s top player.
T.J. McConnell was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in his freshman season and led the team in assists (5.5 ppg)) as a sophomore, also scoring 11.4 points a game.
He also brings a defensive intensity to the game that Miller is eager to add to the Cats’ game. McConnell’s 2.8 steals per game last season ranked third in the nation.
Miller calls him one of the best point guards in the country.
Neither McConnell or Korcheck will be on the floor for the coming season – as if Miller will really miss them next year. Korchek will redshirt next season and McConnell will have to sit it out due to NCAA transfer rules. But that will enable him to slide into the line-up as senior point guard, Kyle Fogg, exits.
However, this isn’t necessarily good news for Arizona opponents. The two will be joining the recruiting class of 2013, which already has commitments from three players who are listed in the Rivals.com Top 150. And the 2014 class is shaping up to be even better than 2012 or 2013.
That brings to mind the old adage… the rich just keep getting richer.
And, when it comes to recruiting, the Wildcat boss obviously sees no reason to share the wealth.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)