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Arizona basketball: Red-Blue part of 'gold standard' at Arizona

2012-10-21T00:00:00Z Arizona basketball: Red-Blue part of 'gold standard' at ArizonaBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 21, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Long considered a near-lock to choose Kansas as the signing period approached, New Hampshire center Kaleb Tarczewski took a final recruiting visit to Arizona for last season's Red-Blue Game.

Tarczewski spent the weekend with three other top 2012 prospects, all of whom had already committed to the Wildcats: Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley and Gabe York. He watched the Wildcats honor several former players from the NBA who were available to show up because of the NBA lockout.

And he saw a sold-out crowd of more than 14,000 people fill McKale Center. For an intrasquad scrimmage.

Nine days later, Tarczewski pledged to become a Wildcat himself.

The Red-Blue "played a lot into it," Tarczewski said earlier this month at the Wildcats' preseason media day. "It was great seeing the fan support and also seeing Coach (Sean) Miller and all the other coaches. I got comfortable with the place, and I learned that this was a place I can succeed at, and a place I can have fun at."

Basically, one afternoon proved a final blow to everything Kansas had been doing for many months.

"Kansas had been recruiting me longer than Arizona had, but it doesn't matter how long they've been recruiting you," Tarczewski told the Star upon committing. "It matters how you feel."

Tarczewski and those three other 2012 commits - now all UA freshmen - will get to experience being a Wildcat today in front of a sold-out McKale Center crowd for the first time.

At the same time, it'll be their chance to help sell the program on another important batch of recruiting targets. The long shot this time is 2013 recruit Aaron Gordon, a powerful and talented forward from San Jose, Calif., who has longtime ties with Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and is also looking at Oregon, Kentucky and, yes, Kansas.

Arizona is also bringing in a number of top prospects from the classes of 2014 and 2015, some of whom may make their college decision before their senior year arrives - thus also making their visits potentially critical.

All this, of course, is why Miller has added the role of Chief Marketer to his head coaching duties in recent weeks.

For him, the equation looks something like this: More ticket sales equal more fans equal more impressed recruits equal more big commitments equal more potential success in the future.

So Miller has been tweeting constantly about the event, telling fans about Red-Blue ticket discounts at McDonald's, posting pictures of the team poster that will be available at the event and issuing frequent updates on how fast the tickets were selling.

"This is a weekend of 'great meaning' for Arizona Basketball!" he posted on Sept. 30.

After announcing Wednesday that the event had sold out, Miller went on to rattle off facts about the 1987-88 Wildcat players who will be honored today, concluding with this upbeat message:

"1 Hall Of Fame Coach. 14,500 of The Best Fans in College Basketball at Every Home Game! The Gold Standard of College Basketball!"

Then again, recruiting is only one reason why Miller is fired up about the Red-Blue Game. The event hits on all cylinders of the rebranding he has brought to the program - the theme of past-present-and-future that he has had plastered on the hallways and basketball locker room at McKale.

This time, the past is represented in the honoring of the 1988 Final Four team. The present will be on the court for the first time this season, a preseason top-15 team with deep NCAA tournament potential.

And the future, Miller hopes, is sitting in the stands and deciding to be a part of it someday.

"It's great to have our guys out in McKale in front of 14,500 people in a super-charged environment," Miller said. "It only continues to get their feet wet and remind them of how important winning is and how much people care and support our program.

Also "we really target some of the best prospects in the country, future players who can help us do great things. To have them here during that weekend and experience that, that says it all.

"If you talk about Kaleb a year ago … having him at the Red-Blue Game helped us secure him, no question about it. No matter what we talked about on the telephone, or how much you think this atmosphere is special, until you're actually here you don't feel it.

"It helps the future. It's something that I believe continues to be as crucial today as it was the day I came here."

Planning for the future

UA recruiting targets scheduled to attend the Red-Blue Game include:

2013 players

• Elliott Pitts, guard, De La Salle High School (Concord, Calif.). Committed to UA in August.

• Rondae Jefferson, forward, Chester (Pa.) HS. Committed to UA in September.

• Aaron Gordon, forward, Archbishop Mitty HS (San Jose, Calif.). Also considering Washington, Oregon, Kansas, Kentucky.

2014

• Eric Cooper, guard, St. Anthony (Long Beach, Calif.). Committed to UA in November 2010

• Stanley Johnson, wing, Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, Calif.). Open.

• Justise Winslow, wing, St. John's HS (Houston). Also considering Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Baylor, others.

• Parker Jackson-Cartwright, guard, Loyola HS (Los Angeles). UCLA and many Pac-12 schools, St. John's, North Carolina State.

2015

• Isaiah Briscoe, guard, St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.). Open

Sources: Direct confirmation via several high school coaches and various reports

Red-Blue Game

• When: 2 p.m. today

• Where: McKale Center

• TV: Live web streaming at Pac-12.com

• Tickets: Sold out

Event schedule

• 11 a.m.: UA volleyball vs. Oregon State

• After volleyball: UA wheelchair basketball exhibition

• 2 p.m.: UA player introductions, 1988 team introductions, videos, pregame dunk contest and Andre Iguodala's introduction into Ring of Honor

• 2:20 p.m.: Red-Blue scrimmage (two 12-minute halves)

• Halftime: 1988 team will be recognized

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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