2011 hoops recruiting class fading fast; Chol leaving UA

Sean Miller has had little trouble finding and signing some of the nation’s top recruits during his four years as the head coach for the University of Arizona basketball program.  He’s widely respected for his ability to recruit.

The problem, however, seems to be keeping them happy once they arrive.

Angelo Chol is continuing the disturbing trend, announcing in a prepared statement yesterday that he will be moving on.  The 6’9″ power forward from California reportedly has obtained his release from the Wildcat program.

(*Update 5/09/13:  Looks like the big guy just got homesick.  Despite offers from dozens of top programs, Chol is reportedly returning to San Diego, where he attended high school, and will play for San Diego State where he will redshirt next year and be on the court for the 2014-15 season.)

Chol was the very last recruit added to the Class of 2011, but his acquisition was considered at the time to be a key to the future of the program.  He was seen as the possible successor to Derrick Williams, who left a huge hole at the power forward spot when he left early for the NBA.  Williams led the Cats to an appearance in the Elite Eight at the NCAA Tournament and a final No. 9 national ranking to close the 2010-11 season.

The departure of the athletic Chol, who provided both a scoring ability and an intimidating presence on defense, leaves just one high-profile recruit remaining from the 2011 recruiting class.  When Chol finally committed to Arizona, Miller had already secured the services of five-star guard Josiah Turner and four-star prospects Nick Johnson and Sidiki Johnson at the forward position.  His addition boosted that year’s recruiting class from an already-impressive No. 12 national ranking to No. 8.

Nick Johnson is still on the roster and is maturing into not only a scoring leader, but one of the better defenders in the country.  But the other Johnson has left, and right behind him Turner.  Both had discipline issues under their new coach; Johnson left early in the 2011-12 season and Turner followed after the season wrapped.

But Chol isn’t a problem child.  “He did a tremendous job in his two years in our program, both on the court and in the classroom,” said Miller.  “He is one of the finest people and nicest kids that I have ever coached.”

The youngster just wants more playing time.  He was averaging about 12 minutes a game as a freshman, but that on-court time dropped to 8 1/2 minutes last season.

Miller also just added a couple of NBA prospects in the front court, which undoubtedly weighed in Chol’s decision to seek greener pastures.  Both Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon, who is the fourth-rated player among the ESPN Top 100, were McDonald’s All Americans and are expected to see playing time in Tucson sooner rather than later.

But Chol has huge upside and doesn’t want to waste it sitting on the bench as a reserve forward, as he did last season.  Miller saw that potential while the kid was playing for Hoover High School in San Diego.  Chol recorded 337 blocked shots during his sophomore season, which set a national high-school record, and his 19 blocks in one game established a new San Diego city single-game mark.

By the time he got to his senior season, he was a scoring threat as well.  The Sudan native, who didn’t play the game until middle school, averaged 23 points, 15 rebounds, and eight blocked shots a game in his final year.

“I wish Angelo much success in his future,” Miller also said in a statement issued by the university.  “I believe that Angelo’s best days as a basketball player are ahead of him”

Unfortunately, it looks like those days won’t be in an Arizona Wildcat uniform.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)