It’s hard to maintain a reputation as ‘Point Guard U’ when you don’t have a big-time point guard.
Such is the plight of the University of Arizona men’s basketball program. For the first time in recent memory, head coach Sean Miller is still beating the bushes for a highly-rated point guard with so little time left before preparations for next season begin in earnest.
Miller, who was a top-rated point guard himself in college, has been fortunate to recruit some good players at that position during his nine years running the Wildcats’ program. But the Point Guard U moniker was tagged onto the program by the media back when Lute Olson built many of his championship teams by recruiting some of the best point guards in the country. Think: Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jerryd Bayless, and Jason Terry, to name a few.
There was one in the stable for this recruiting class, but Miller lost him in the wake of an FBI probe into recruiting corruption in college basketball, an investigation that already resulted in the arrest of one of Miller’s assistant coaches, Book Richardson, last summer. (An ESPN report also implicated Miller just before the end of the regular season, but so far it’s just an allegation that Miller has aggressively denied.)
The stud in the stable was Brandon Williams, a four-star point guard from California, who de-committed six weeks ago.
And hopes for replacing the departed Williams were just dashed when James Akinjo, another four-star point from the Sunshine State, decided to cancel an official visit to the Tucson campus. He also canceled a visit to Tennessee, which leads observers to believe that Georgetown, which he has visited, may be where he’s headed.
Akinjo is considered by most recruiting services to be one of the best point-guard prospects still available. And that list of uncommitted at that position is getting shorter and shorter.
Williams, the No. 7 point guard in the country, also hasn’t landed anywhere yet, although Oregon is putting a full-court press on the youngster. Meanwhile, Miller hasn’t taken ‘no’ for an answer and is still pursuing the No. 33 prospect in the Class of 2018 (247Sports) — and Williams says he has not ruled out playing for Arizona, once he explores his other options.
While this is all bad news for the program, it creates a new opportunity for the one point guard that is waiting in the wings, a sophomore who was recruited from within the Arizona borders.
Alex Barcello was a two-time Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year during his prep career at Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School. He was ranked among those in the ESPN Top 100 recruits and considered the second-best recruit coming out of Arizona as a senior, behind the nation’s No. 1 prospect, Deandre Ayton from Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix.
Miller got them both, Ayton becoming Miller’s first No. 1 recruit. Ayton was a one-and-done after last season, while Barcello is back for another try at breaking into the starting line-up. He saw limited time last season, but did appear in 21 games.
But Barcello’s performance evidently wasn’t enough to convince Miller he could put next years’ team into his hands.
And so the search goes on for someone who can step in and take the reins.
Point Guard U is taking applications.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)