The waves of top basketball talent keep rolling into Tucson…
Oh yeah, Sean Miller is definitely going to miss Gabe York next year. That’s his senior point guard, the one who had one of the biggest nights in University of Arizona basketball history last Saturday when he nailed nine three-point shots and scored 32 points to lead the Wildcats in a 94-62 romp over Stanford to close out the regular season.
But losing a player like York is just part of the process in the Old Pueblo. Miller has already lined up his replacement for next season – and is bringing in enough additional talent to warrant a top-10 ranking for his next recruiting class.
And that would make it six consecutive top-10 classes for the seventh-year head coach. At least one major recruiting service actually put the last five in the top five nationally.
The latest high-profile recruit just committed Monday night to push the 2016 class into the top ten. Five-star guard Rawle Alkins from Word of God Christian Academy in North Carolina announced his decision to don the red and blue uniform in the fall, following an unofficial visit to the UofA campus at the end of January.
Alkins, a 6’4″ shooting guard is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 20 player in the 2016 class and No. 3 at his position, while 247Sports’ composite ranking is No. 17 overall. He will be an impact player for the Cats right out of the chute and could be a one-and-done on his way to the NBA draft.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, the McDonald’s All American (Miller’s seventh) played his first three years at Christ the King High School in New York, where he led that program to three straight city titles.
Oddly enough, there was some question back in October as to whether Miller would be able to continue his string of top-drawer recruiting classes. When T.J. Leaf, a five-star forward, de-committed from the program in August, it left an empty recruiting class for 2016. It wasn’t until mid-November, when Lauri Markkanen announced his intent to join the UofA program that Wildcat Nation began to breathe a little easier.
Markkanen is another five-star recruit, a seven-footer who could also be around in Tucson for just one year; some projections show him as a first-round NBA pick. The native of Finland who played this year for the Helsinki Basketball Academy will not only help compensate for losing the graduating Kaleb Tarczewski, one of two seven-footers on the roster, but Markkanen is also a major threat from behind the arc – a defensive match-up nightmare for opponents.
With the big guy on board, the Cats got another huge commitment on Jan. 16 when five-star point guard Kobi Simmons gave his verbal commitment to the Arizona program. Another McDonald’s All-American, Simmons has good size for a guard at 6’5″, enviable length, and an impressive set of skills. Miller won out over Kentucky and Ohio State to secure his services.
The addition of Simmons and Alkins will overload the roster at the guard position since they will be joining with four other quality returning back court players. It’s not sure if Allonzo Trier will stay for another year or enter the NBA draft, but Miller will still be left with Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Justin Simon, and Kadeem Allen.
So what will it take to get this recruiting class into the top-five? That’s simple: Josh Jackson.
Arizona is reportedly among two or three teams at the top of the wish list for the five-star small forward, generally considered to be either the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in the country.
However, even if Jackson eludes Miller’s recruiting net, the Cats will be loaded again in the fall.
But that’s a fun story for another day.