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Arizona basketball: Incoming duo may fit Miller's team credo

2012-03-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-24T10:50:59Z Arizona basketball: Incoming duo may fit Miller's team credoBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 28, 2012 12:00 am  • 

CHICAGO - Once Arizona Wildcats recruiting targets Josh Selby and Doron Lamb decided to announce their college choices during a nationally televised all-star game in the spring of 2010, UA coach Sean Miller had seen enough.

"It's more important to get the right guys," Miller said then. "If I recruit the right guys, and they happen to become McDonald's All-Americans, great.…

"If it's about those kids needing that stage to commit, they can go somewhere else. I need players to buy into 'team.'"

Two years later, Miller has two players who committed to the Wildcats without much fanfare … then became McDonald's All-Americans.

Forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett will play for the "West" team tonight in the prestigious high school all-star game at the United Center, the first players Miller has ever had in the McDonald's game and the first two signees UA has ever had play in it at the same time.

There's no question both are talented, the core of what was the nation's consensus No. 1 recruiting class during the November signing period.

The only question for Miller may be, then, is whether they are the right guys. Team guys.

The early evidence suggests they could be.

Consider how Jerrett dealt with letting a pass get away that might have led to a game-winning layup or dunk for his LaVerne Lutheran team in the California playoffs earlier this month.

As Los Angeles Price High School hung on for a 53-52 win, Jerrett slumped to the floor and had to be helped off the floor.

He was virtually inconsolable afterward.

"Just to start talking, it (took) like a few days," Jerrett said. "It really still hurts. I don't think it's ever going to go away."

Meanwhile, there was Ashley, now a part of Las Vegas-area powerhouse Findlay Prep, speaking of the Wildcats as if he was already in Tucson and on the team. At least that's how he conveyed it during pregame interviews Tuesday at the United Center:

"I watched a ton" of UA games this season, Ashley said. "Every game that I could. We struggled at times, but actually I think we had a good year."

Jerrett already has a passion for the Wildcats that is several years in the making. Jerrett took repeated visits to Arizona early in his high school career, then made a commitment in November 2010, well before the Wildcats had much measurable success under Miller.

The Wildcats were coming off a postseason-less 2009-10 campaign, nobody knew yet that Derrick Williams would become the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, and the Elite Eight wasn't even a thought.

Yet Jerrett opted to take a leap of faith.

Why?

"Honestly after seeing other schools, I went to Arizona and I really felt comfortable," Jerrett said. "They've got new facilities. I like the coaches, and the fan support is unbelievable. It's just perfect for what I want in college."

Rather than guard against the Wildcats recruiting other players who might take playing time away, Jerrett then actively sought out Ashley.

The two players hail from different parts of California - Jerrett from Chino Hills outside of Los Angeles and Ashley from Dublin in the Bay Area - but they had been friendly since their freshman seasons.

So when they talked before Ashley committed in August 2011, their conversations often included the word "Arizona."

"He was definitely a pretty big part of my coming to Arizona," Ashley said. "We've obviously bonded pretty well over the years."

Jerrett and Ashley are each listed as 6-foot-9-inch power forwards, but they mesh well together on the floor. Jerrett can move to center, and Ashley is athletic enough to be a small forward.

Wherever they play, there's no question they will have an opportunity to help a team that threw 6-7 Jesse Perry at the opposing team's biggest player this season.

Just don't tell Ashley that the Wildcats would have been better off if their 2012 recruits could have helped this season. He didn't see it that way.

"I wouldn't say better, because I feel like we had a great team this year," Ashley said. "There were a lot of great pieces, seniors like Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender. For us to come in and complement the team, bringing size, rebounding and defensive interior - I think that's going to be our biggest thing, our biggest goal."

UA McDonald's All-Americans

With the arrival of Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley next season, the Wildcats will have had 17 McDonald's All-Americans, 13 of whom signed out of high school:

1984 Craig McMillan, Coverdale, Calif.

1985 Sean Elliott, Tucson

1987 Brian Williams (started career at Maryland), Santa Monica, Calif.

1988 Chris Mills (started career at Kentucky), Los Angeles

1990 Khalid Reeves, New York

1991 Ben Davis (started career at Kansas) Vero Beach, Fla.

1996 Loren Woods (started career at Wake Forest), St. Louis

1996 Mike Bibby, Phoenix

1998 Richard Jefferson, Phoenix

1999 Jason Gardner, Indianapolis

2002 Hassan Adams, Los Angeles

2003 Mustafa Shakur, Philadelphia

2004 Jawann McClellan, Houston

2006 Chase Budinger, Encinitas, Calif

2007 Jerryd Bayless, Phoenix

2012 Brandon Ashley, Oakland, Calif.

Grant Jerrett, Chino Hills, Calif.

Today

• What: McDonald's All-American Game

• Where: Chicago

• When: 6:30 p.m.

• TV: ESPN

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