Nearly four weeks have passed since the Arizona Wildcats exited the NCAA tournament, and coach Sean Miller’s staff hasn’t stopped running.
“We have workouts” with current players, he said last week. “You’re trying to finalize this year’s (recruiting) class. You’re moving ahead to next year’s class. Sometimes people say, ‘Hey, are you enjoying the offseason?’
“It’s not here yet. I think May is more of that.”
Actually, in UA’s case this spring, June might be more like it.
Wednesday is the first day of the spring signing period, and, while five-star UA target Terrance Ferguson said Tuesday he won’t take more visits and will decide soon, the Wildcats still have at least three scholarship openings to fill for the 2016-17 season.
So even if Ferguson decides to play for the Wildcats, that means UA coaches will likely be chasing a few remaining incoming freshmen or, perhaps more likely, going after both conventional and graduate transfers to round out the roster next season and beyond.
“If we have it the way we see it today, I think you’ll find we’ll have a group of six or seven” new recruits, Miller said last week. “How that shakes out in terms of freshmen or a transfer remains to be seen. But that’s what our team needs based on what we’ve lost and moving forward.”
As of now, Miller has three players coming in — Finnish forward Lauri Markkanen, New York wing Rawle Alkins and Georgia combo guard Kobi Simmons — to go with six returning players (seven if Elliott Pitts somehow returns to the team).
That suggests that the Wildcats’ biggest remaining priority could be getting a fourth big man to join Markkanen, Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche between the two post positions.
Although the Wildcats reached out to one of the top remaining big men in the class of 2017, Brewster Academy’s Taurean Thompson, Brewster coach Jason Smith said via text message Tuesday that he didn’t think Thompson is seriously considering the UA at this point and is more likely to remain closer to his New York home.
Arizona also reportedly scheduled a visit with former Tulane big man Dylan Osetkowski, a native of San Diego, but he announced Tuesday he was transferring to Texas after visiting the Longhorns last weekend.
Osetkowski will have to sit out next season anyway as a conventional transfer, but the pool of immediately eligible grad transfers might soon include UNLV’s Ben Carter, whose father told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he is considering leaving for his fourth season of eligibility.
Arizona recruited Carter out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas before he began his career at Oregon, then transferred to UNLV. His father, Mike, told the Review-Journal his son remains undecided after meeting with new UNLV coach Chris Beard.
“We had a great meeting with him,” Mike Carter told the Review-Journal. “Ben doesn’t know what he wants to do. He wants to win. Coach Beard is all about winning.”
The Wildcats earlier reportedly pursued Delaware transfer guard Kory Holden, but were not listed among his final five schools: Kansas, Seton Hall, Baylor, Virginia Tech and South Carolina.
Arizona already has five guards on its 2016-17 roster, between the two recruits and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Kadeem Allen and Allonzo Trier, making it tough for the Wildcats to offer playing time.
However, Ferguson would bring an elite shooting ability to the wing that the Wildcats do not have, thus demanding time .
Ferguson set a new Hoop Summit record with seven three-pointers (on 11 shots) while playing for USA Basketball on Saturday in the annual exhibition game against a collection of young international talent.
While Ferguson hasn’t hinted which way he’s leaning — he tweeted out emojis of mascots of schools he is deciding among — both Jerry Meyer of 24/7 Sports and Josh Gershon of Scout said the UA appears to be the leader. Ferguson’s tweet said he would announce within a week, though he told SNY.tv on Tuesday that he was “supposed to tomorrow.”
Gershon added that Arizona is already in good shape because it has a lot of top guards and wings who can shift to bigger positions, if needed. Already, UA played the 6-5 Trier at small forward mostly last season, while redshirt freshman Ray Smith might be able to shift to power forward, too.
“They have a lot of talent,” Gershon said. “They’re much more talented than last year.”
But getting to that point requires nonstop recruiting, especially when you’re constantly losing players early to the pros and transfers. Miller even indicated this year’s class of six or seven might be eclipsed in 2017, the class of which UA staffers are beginning to zero in on now.
“The good news if you love recruiting, we’re gonna probably bring seven more” in 2017, Miller said. “If you love to recruit, this is definitely a place to show up at right now.”
Miller smiled with that one. Seriously, though, he’d prefer a little less turnover.
If such a thing were realistic anymore.
“I understand it’s the name of the game, but nobody loves bringing seven in,” Miller said. “It can get away from you if you’re not careful. But it’s a cycle we’re trying to balance as best we can.”