There’s a verse in the bible that says, in part: “For whoever has, shall be given more, and they shall have an abundance.” Sounds like that pearl of wisdom fits Arizona’s basketball coach, Sean Miller, right now.
The fifth-year head coach at University of Arizona got word before the first practice of the season got underway this week that the NCAA finally approved the waiver the school has been waiting for, giving Zach Peters the green light to suit up for this season. The transfer from Kansas, who never got on the floor for the Jayhawks due to concussion issues, will have four years of eligibility to give to the Wildcat program.
Even without Peters, Miller’s recruiting class for this season is ranked No. 5 in the nation. His annual pre-season Red-Blue Game that showcases the new team to its fans, has been sold out for the third year in a row. He enjoys that kind of fan support, the kind that has led the Pac-12 in attendance the last three decades, averaging 14,157 for regular-season home games.
The man seems to be blessed with abundance.
Which doesn’t endear him to his fellow coaches in the Pac-12. During his four years at the helm of the UofA program, his Cats have the best record among the conference schools in overall wins (96) and winning percentage (.691) – and his record against other Pac-12 schools is the best in the league.
It’s not difficult to see, then, why he continues to pull in some of the top recruiting classes in the country.
And now the lucky stiff gets word that Peters will be able to begin practicing in earnest for the coming season. The 6’10” power forward has been practicing with the team over the summer, but has not been involved in full-contact drills as he works through his concussion issues.
“To this point, Zach has participated with us and we’re still in the process of him returning to full competition and contacts,” said Miller in commenting on the NCAA announcement. “Zach has made tremendous progress in his time at Arizona, and we’re optimistic that, with continued improvement, that time will come in the near future.”
Peters, who was a four-time All-State selection at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, and helped that prep program to two state titles, is a significant acquisition. He will give the Cats some depth at the forward positions that suffered most from last year’s graduation of Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom.
Miller has a couple of five-star recruits, Aaron Gordon and Rondae Jefferson, on board to fill the voids at the forward position. And Peters should be able to give the team some additional help in the forward position as it tries to go even deeper into the NCAA Tournament this year. Arizona was a Sweet Sixteen team last year, but this season could very easily make it to the Final Four with the talent it has.
This year’s squad has seven letter winners returning from a team that went 27-8 and finished the conference schedule in a tie for second place. Those returning players accounted for 40 per cent of the points scored on the year and 44 per cent of the rebounding.
Add to that mix a point guard who has been biding his time after the required season of ineligibility after transferring in from Duquesne. T.J. McConnell, an All-Atlantic 10 selection as a sophomore at Duquesne, is expected to join with junior Nick Johnson to form a formidable back court for the Cats.
And then, we stretch the biblical reference a little further yet. Next year, another five-star recruit is expected to take the floor and may be the resurgence of the old “Point Guard U” that was built by Miller’s predecessor, hall-of-fame coach, Lute Olson. Parker Jackson-Cartwright is a snake-quick point guard that runs the floor like he’s already primed for college ball, instead of just starting his senior year of high school in Los Angeles.
Just a little more abundance for the man who has been given much already. And more heartburn for the other Pac-12 coaches who are just trying to keep up.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)