Sean Miller is swinging for the fences and, really, why not? Already having pulled in five high school All-Americans in the past two recruiting classes, the Arizona basketball coach is scheduled to host another two five-star players in Stanley Johnson and Cliff Alexander for official recruiting visits this weekend. Both players are rated as high as No. 2 overall in the class of 2014, according to the major recruiting websites. Miller is “not shying away going after the top players and sort of seeing what happens,” says Jerry Meyer, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. Whether both will choose to make their college home in Tucson appears unlikely: Johnson’s longheld interest in Arizona is being challenged by Kentucky and maybe even USC, while Alexander’s rather opaque recruitment is believed to be led by Kansas and Illinois. In fact, according to 247’s “Crystal Ball,” a compilation of predictions by recruiting writers all over the country, only 40 percent of analysts and writers have Johnson going to Arizona and none have Alexander choosing the Wildcats. But there may be something worthwhile in bringing Alexander to town anyway. “Anytime you can get a top-5 prospect that’s willing to come on campus, of course you have to say ‘yes’ and try to land him,” says Josh Gershon, a California-based analyst for Scout.com. “I wouldn’t say (Alexander) is a player Arizona is counting on by any means. But Stanley Johnson has been a player Sean Miller has prioritized almost since he arrived at Arizona. I think it comes down to Arizona and Kentucky.” Johnson indeed has become a familiar face for the Wildcats. He already visited Arizona for last season’s Red-Blue Game, along with fellow 2014 UA target Justise Winslow and 2014 UA commit Parker Jackson-Cartwright. Arizona coaches followed Johnson around constantly on the recruiting circuit this spring and summer while he played for the Oakland Soldiers travel team, whose alums include UA players Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley. Then the Wildcats went all-out on Johnson this week. According to Johnson’s coach at Mater Dei High School, Gary McKnight, UA assistant coaches Joe Pasternack and Damon Stoudamire stopped by the Santa Ana, Calif., school on Monday to see Johnson, as did former UA players Miles Simon and Dylan Rigdon. Finally, on Monday night, Miller joined his assistants for an in-home visit to Johnson and will undoubtedly give him another sales pitch this weekend on campus. “At this time I can’t tell how he’s leaning, but Arizona has done a very good job of recruiting him,” McKnight said. Whatever the case, it could be a while before either decides. Alexander has already visited hometown DePaul, and he’s still believed to be interested in Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan State and Memphis with no end to his recruitment in sight. McKnight said Johnson probably wouldn’t decide until January. Johnson is still scheduled to visit Kentucky for its “Big Blue Madness” ceremonies on Oct. 12, Florida on Nov. 30 and take yet-to-be-determined official visits to Kansas and Oregon. Johnson is also planning to visit USC unofficially on Sept. 20, and the recent commitment of point guard Jordan McLaughlin to USC over UCLA was a sign the new staff of Trojans coach Andy Enfield is rebuilding local inroads in Southern California. “With Stanley, it’s Arizona and Kentucky,” Scout analyst Evan Daniels said. “But I don’t think you can sleep on USC, either.”
Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High forward Stanley Johnson, left, spins against UA freshman Aaron Gordon in last season’s CIF open division state championship. Johnson is visiting the Wildcats this weekend and is also interested in Kentucky, USC, Kansas and Oregon.