The rich get richer. Or more appropriately in college sports, winning begets more winners.
University of Arizona, coming off a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, has drawn another winner to their winning program. Five days after losing to Ohio State on a last-second shot, the clouds of disappointment were blown away when one of the premier recruits in the country picked the Wildcats program over a long list of suitors.
Aaron Gordon is his name. High-flying basketball is his game.
Gordon is a five-star prospect, finishing up his senior year at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif. He is ranked No. 4 on ESPN’s list of the top 100 recruits in the Class of 2013 – and that makes him the highest-rated recruit during Sean Miller’s nine years as a college head coach, the last four at UofA.
(*Update: Since his commitment to Arizona, Gordon was named the MVP of the McDonald’s All American Game and a week later was selected for his second award as California’s Mr. Basketball. Miller snagged a good one this time.)
Miller pulled down his first 5-star recruit a couple of years ago when he signed Josiah Turner, a point guard that was expected to take the program to the next level. Turner arrived in September of 2011 and was gone by the following April after a couple of suspensions as the youngster failed to adjust to the discipline of Miller’s coaching.
But the class of 2013 now has two 5-star recruits in Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Both could wind up competing for the small foward position vacated with the graduation of Solomon Hill.
And yet another 5-star prize won’t arrive for another year. Parker Jackson-Cartwright, a point guard from Los Angeles, committed last month to being the second member of Miller’s Class of 2014. ESPN has him ranked as the No. 7 prospect at his position.
But Gordon, a 6’8″ power forward, takes the talent to a whole different level. He is unquestionably one of the premier high school players coming out this year, and the best prospect of those still left uncommitted.
The Wildcats were one of 15 top programs around the country put on Gordon’s initial list for consideration. Then they made it to the short list of four that included Kentucky, Oregon, and Washington. The Huskies appeared to have the inside track after pursuing the versatile athlete for several years, but it was Arizona that claimed the prize when Gordon announced his decision yesterday while awaiting the start of tonight’s McDonald’s All American game in Chicago, which will showcase his talent to the country – and give the Arizona program some additional national attention.
While he’s primarily a small forward, he played every position during his high school career, including point guard. He’s at his best when playing in the post, but has a jumping ability not common in the bigs. He put on a show at Monday’s dunk contest, part of the McDonald’s festivities. His through-the-legs 360 and something he calls a ‘double-double’ stole the show and will provide new highlight footage for Youtube.
His game has been compared to the NBA’s Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, but if you combined the versatility and pure athleticism of former Chicago Bulls All-Star Scotty Pippen with Griffin’s size and explosiveness inside, you might have a better idea of the potential Gordon possesses.
And that belongs to Coach Miller and the Arizona program now. And, to add a little icing to the cake, Gordon is reportedly a coach’s dream…energetic, enthusiastic, hard-working, and eager to improve.
Miller already had a top-10 recruiting class with this group, but the addition of Gordon will likely move it into the top five – or higher.
In fact, the Cats are loaded at the power forward position, which is why Gordon may end up playing a small forward, where there’s a little less competition. He should be an impact player early, so it will be important for Miller to find a way to get him onto the court.
Last year, Gordon averaged 21.6 points, 15.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.1 blocks at Archbishop Mitty. In his last game as a senior, he poured in 22 points and pulled down 20 rebounds.
For a good look at the future of Arizona basketball, tune in to tonight’s McDonald’s All-American game. Both Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson will be doing their thing for a national audience.
Miller may be there, too. He would be the one with the incredibly wide smile that hasn’t gone away since Tuesday’s good news.