After his former team's heated intracity rivalry with Cincinnati escalated into a brawl last December, Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller said he was "proud of those guys" at Xavier.
Miller drew some national criticism for his remark at the time, but that sentiment just might help him land then-Xavier guard Mark Lyons, who said Tuesday he would take a recruiting visit to Arizona from Friday to Sunday.
"He didn't (speak to me about it), but I saw that article, and it meant a lot to me coming from him," said Lyons, who was suspended two games for his role in the incident. "He's been through it. He knows the intensity level. To go to bat for us was big for me."
A three-year transfer who says he will graduate this spring, Lyons is considering whether to play at Arizona, Kansas or Kentucky for a final year of eligibility. He said the Wildcats don't have an advantage because of his relationship with Miller, assistant coach Book Richardson and wing Kevin Parrom, but the ties run fairly deep.
Besides being recruited by Miller and Richardson to play for Xavier, where Lyons redshirted under Miller in 2008-09, Lyons also happened to host Parrom during an official recruiting visit to Xavier (Parrom signed with the Musketeers before following Miller to Arizona in the spring of 2009).
Parrom and Lyons have remained friendly ever since and, this weekend, Parrom could be the one showing Lyons around.
"We've been cool," Lyons said of Parrom. "We've talked even before I decided to transfer. … He definitely joked about (me coming to UA), but he doesn't want to put pressure on me to do something."
The big factor, Lyons said, is finding a place to play point guard full-time in order to improve his NBA stock, although Xavier coach Chris Mack said in a statement that a decision was reached for Lyons to end his Musketeer career because the two did not agree on expectations for next season.
A third-team all-Atlantic 10 pick last season, Lyons played mostly off the ball, with standout Tu Holloway at point guard for Xavier. The Musketeers also have two more point guards available for next season in Dee Davis and Semaj Christon.
At 6 feet 1 inch and 188 pounds, Lyons said it's "pretty obvious" that he needs to be able to play point guard in the NBA.
"It's a big factor because I want to play more point than I did in my past," Lyons said. "I felt I needed a change of scenery, and I wanted to play point guard. … Honestly the truth is that things (with Mack) were cool at the end of the year."
Lyons said all three of his possible new schools have a need at point guard. Arizona is without a true point guard now that Josiah Turner is off the team, leaving three combo guards on the roster: Jordin Mayes, Nick Johnson and Gabe York.
Lyons has one year of college eligibility remaining, and he can become eligible immediately if he graduates from Xavier and enrolls in another school as a graduate student. Lyons said he will finish Xavier's spring semester Friday and then must take one online course to graduate, adding that he expects to finish that course two weeks from Friday.
Miller continued his trend of seeking in-state talent last week when he offered a scholarship to Chandler Basha guard Jaron Hopkins, who confirmed the offer via Twitter.
Miller has already received significant contributions from Johnson, an East Valley native who was a freshman last season, and this spring signed former Sabino High School forward Matt Korcheck of Cochise College.
Miller also offered a scholarship to Phoenix guard Daniel Bejarano in October 2009, though Bejarano played only sparingly as a freshman in 2010-11 before transferring to Colorado State.
Hopkins, a 6-4 combo guard rated No. 150 in Rivals.com's latest 2013 rankings, averaged 21.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists last season for Basha, which finished 22-7. Phoenix-area travel ball organizer Chad Groth said he's an athletic, multidimensional talent.
"He's a high major player," Groth said. "He does everything."
Hopkins plays for the Magic travel-ball team out of Los Angeles, the same program that York played for.
Cooper switches schools
Former Wildcat player Eric Cooper, who coached incoming UA freshman Grant Jerrett at LaVerne (Calif.) Lutheran High School, has accepted a job at St. Anthony High School of Long Beach, Calif.
He spent five years at Lutheran, winning at least 24 games each season, after taking a program that was just 7-24 in the season before he arrived.
"We did a lot of good things, and I felt it was time for a new challenge," Cooper said.
Cooper said his son Eric, a 2013 UA commit, would transfer to St. Anthony to play for him next season.
All about Lyons
• Who: Mark Lyons, guard
• From: Schenectady, N.Y. (Brewster N.H. Academy school)
• Height, weight: 6-1, 188
• Key stats from 2011-2012 season: 15.1 points per game, 31.2 minutes per game, 39.2 three-point percentage