The bicoastal look of Arizona's basketball team will continue well into the future, now that 2011 forward Sidiki Johnson of New York has committed to the Wildcats.
Johnson, a top-60 player from Bronx's St. Raymond High School for Boys, last weekend became the first recruit to commit to new coach Sean Miller beyond the 2009 class.
While Miller's staff spent last month on the frenetic July recruiting circuit, all it took to finalize a deal with Johnson was a relaxed, unofficial visit he took to Tucson in June.
Johnson already had a strong relationship with Miller, who recruited Johnson for Xavier, and he also knows UA assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson, a New York City native.
"It was a great time out there," Johnson said. "I liked the environment there. It felt real comfortable."
UA freshmen MoMo Jones and Kevin Parrom were not yet in Tucson during Johnson's visit, but Johnson said he is a friend of both. Jones is from Harlem, where Johnson lives, while Parrom was a junior at St. Raymond when Johnson was a freshman there before Parrom transferred to the South Kent School in Connecticut.
Like Jones and Parrom, Johnson said he will have no problem moving to Tucson, looking to leave his hometown for college anyway. Johnson said he had already looked at Kentucky, St. John's and Providence.
"I love it, and my family loves Tucson," said Johnson, who was accompanied by his father on his UA visit. "It's a nice, quiet place where I can just focus."
Johnson said he watched Miller's Xavier teams regularly and enjoyed their style of play, imagining he would become a small forward for the Wildcats.
For now, the 6-foot-8-inch, 200-pound Johnson is highly regarded as a slender but tough and active power forward. Rivals.com lists him as the No. 56 player in 2011 while Scout.com has him No. 55 — and Hoopmasters.com's Van Coleman said Johnson is likely to keep rising.
"He really exploded this summer," Coleman said. "He's an aggressive rebounder with a nice 15-foot-to-the-basket game. He's very explosive … very athletic for a big man."
The Wildcats have at least three scholarships to offer for 2010 and 2011 players, plus more if there are any transfers or early departures. The Wildcats are involved with several of the top 2010 players but do not yet have commitments from any of them.
Players lining up
Thirty-seven former Lute Olson players have confirmed plans to attend a ceremony for the retired coach on Saturday at McKale Center, according to a UA release Monday.
Of the 37 players, 13 have played in the NBA: Mike Bibby, A.J. Bramlett, Jud Buechler, Sean Elliott, Reggie Geary, Andre Iguodala, Richard Jefferson, Steve Kerr, Khalid Reeves, Eddie Smith, Tom Tolbert, Luke Walton and Pete Williams.
Also scheduled to attend are former Arizona State coach Bill Frieder and two of Olson's former Iowa players, Ronnie Lester and John Dorsee.
The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Admission and parking are free.