As of now, the Arizona Wildcats have a powerhouse roster for 2014-15 that could be a national title favorite.
But of course, that’s as of now. And this is Arizona.
So nothing, really, is for sure with the Wildcats next season until at least after NBA draft decisions are made later this month. The NBA’s deadline to declare for the draft is April 27, and there’s always the possibility of transfers in or out after that.
With elite programs such as Arizona’s, things sometimes don’t get settled until June.
“No one knows,” center Kaleb Tarczewski said. “It’s too early to tell. We have a great recruiting class, some good talent coming in and it all kind of depends on who comes back and who goes.”
Tarczewski himself is one of several Wildcats expected to explore the idea of leaving, though he says he has plans to apply to an Eller College entrepreneurial program if he stays.
Forward Aaron Gordon and guard Nick Johnson are expected to leave, and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could also give the NBA a look.
They’ll have to decide quickly, however. Players seeking an official NBA evaluation must do so by April 9, and they have until April 27 to declare for the draft.
If they decide to declare and then withdraw, the NCAA has imposed an April 15 deadline for withdrawals — but players can simply avoid that deadline by keeping their stance private until they decide to leave or stay.
UA coach Sean Miller said he plans to help players who are considering leaving early.
“The protocol that I would like them to go through is certainly make the best decision for them,” Miller said.
“But we’re lucky we have great families surrounding our players. We have a coaching staff, and I just want to make sure that they have all of the information, and if that information checks out and they’d like to go, great. But don’t make a rush decision one way or the other, because it’s too important.”
Gordon is a projected lottery pick in the June draft while Draft Express has Johnson going high in the second round. But neither Gordon nor Johnson would say what they might do after UA’s season-ending loss to Wisconsin on Saturday.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” Johnson said. “When it gets down to it, I’ll talk to my family, talk to coach and see what’s best for me.”
However, point guard T.J. McConnell said he’s intent on staying and, if Johnson leaves, the team could be squarely in McConnell’s hands. He’ll have a look-changing backup in 5-foot-8-inch freshman Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
The Wildcats will have improved shooting with juco transfer Kadeem Allen joining returning guards Gabe York and Elliott Pitts.
On the frontline, Arizona also could be loaded even if Hollis-Jefferson decided to leave, with Brandon Ashley returning and small forward Stanley Johnson bringing the same kind of powerhouse credentials that Gordon brought last season. Power forward Craig Victor is also part of the new class.
Johnson is fresh off leading Mater Dei to a California Open Division title on Saturday, will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday in Chicago. Craig Victor also
And at center, if Tarczewski sticks around, he’ll have a chance to practice against fellow 7-footer Dusan Ristic, a Serbian native who committed to UA on March 8 and is expected to sign this month.
So however the Cats look, exactly, they don’t figure to disappear from the national elite. Especially if their well-regarded recruits turn into well-regarded players.
“We have to go into summer workouts and become better as a team,” York said. “We have Stanley, Parker, Craig and a couple of other guys. We have to have them ready to go, just like our freshmen stepped up this year.”