After signing 19 basketball players in just three years at Arizona, including the nation's top recruiting class last fall, coach Sean Miller says he's run into some good luck.
But he's also run into some rough patches recently, which he's aiming to reduce in the future with a careful recruiting approach.
In the past six months, freshman forward Sidiki Johnson was dismissed; freshman guard Josiah Turner was suspended twice, announced he was transferring last month, and was later arrested for extreme DUI; and senior forward Jesse Perry was charged with felony domestic violence.
While meeting with the local media Thursday for the first time in 62 days, since the Wildcats lost to Bucknell in the first round of the NIT, Miller said the key to avoiding trouble is learning as much as possible about players during the recruiting process before signing them.
"Nobody feels worse when one of their players makes a mistake or makes a bad decision than I do," Miller said. "And I'm not going to walk around and act like everything's OK when that happens. But young people do make mistakes, and we're constantly trying to educate them on the front end and make sure we have guys who know right from wrong.
"But I know myself, from (age) 18 and 22, you shake your head looking back at some things you do. And you learn from them and grow.…
"That's what this environment is about."
Miller noted how lucky he was as a recruiter in June 2009, when Derrick Williams agreed to come to Arizona and developed into the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
Then "sometimes it balances out by something you think is going to work out well but it doesn't," Miller said. "But we're working hard to make sure we bring in guys who love the game, who want to be able to get up every day and go to class and want to be a part of something that's bigger than themselves. … With our best research, every once in a while things don't work out. I think we're all part of that."
Miller said Turner ultimately made the decision to leave UA last month, even though the freshman had been suspended indefinitely at the end of the season.
The coach said he hoped Turner could make a "great turnaround" under new coach Larry Brown at SMU.
While discussing his three spring signees for the first time Tuesday, Miller noted that the addition of former Xavier guard Mark Lyons comes with a touch of irony.
"Very seldom do you leave a player as a coach and then get a chance to coach him again," Miller said. "I'm excited to have his experience.
"He's one of the most competitive kids that I've been around and I look forward to him sharing that senior mantle with Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill."
It was Miller who recruited Lyons out of high school to play at Xavier, where the guard sat out as a freshman in 2008-09 because of what Miller said was a transcript technicality that made Lyons a partial academic qualifier.
After Miller left for Arizona, Lyons wound up playing three years for the Musketeers before he took advantage of an NCAA rule allowing players to play elsewhere immediately if they have graduated.
With Turner gone, Lyons is expected to make his biggest impact as a point guard, but Miller said it wasn't a certainty that Lyons would start there.
Miller noted that Xavier played him off the ball in order to get its best five players on the court, and that Lyons was a "real talent defensively."
The way Miller views it, the Wildcats will be helped behind the scenes next season with their other two spring signees: Former Duquesne guard T.J. McConnell, who will sit out the year normally required of transfers, and former Sabino High and Cochise College forward Matt Korcheck, who is voluntarily redshirting.
"One of the things I believe we have to do as a basketball program is become more seasoned, older and not just constantly dealing with the same age group of freshmen replacing the last class," Miller said.
McConnell's "age and his experience level is something we covet for down the road, and I do believe he'll have an impact on this year's team," Miller said.
• Miller said he expected his entire team to be eligible for its August exhibition swing to the Bahamas, although Lyons will not enroll until July while he finishes his Xavier degree.
• The coach said he intends to play Hill only at small forward and that Parrom's broken foot is fully healed.
• Former UA forward Jamelle Horne has returned to take two pre-session courses and will graduate afterward, Miller said.
• Former Wildcat guard Kyle Fogg is set to participate in the New Jersey Nets' combine this weekend, along with 43 other players, including Santa Rita grad and former Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin, according to Zagsblog.
• Arizona has been installed as a 25-1 shot to win next season's NCAA title, according to Bovada.