LAS VEGAS — With the July evaluation period over, the Arizona Wildcats begin the stretch run of closing out what could be a fourth straight powerhouse recruiting class.
Maybe even as good as any that coach Sean Miller has assembled yet.
“I’m getting scared,” said guard Justin Simon, the first of UA’s two 2015 commits to jump on board. “It could be the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. That’s something big to be a part of, and something I’ve always dreamed of. We have great guys and have a chance to get to the Final Four. We can make some history for our school.”
So far, Arizona has Simon and Las Vegas wing Ray Smith, both five-star recruits, in the high school senior class. Then there’s Boston College transfer forward Ryan Anderson, who will effectively join the 2015 class when he becomes eligible after sitting out the required redshirt season required of transfers.
Two holes remain: a point guard — Seattle’s Allonzo Trier and New Jersey’s Isaiah Briscoe are at the top of that list — and a big man, with Los Angeles’ Chance Comanche, Oakland’s Ivan Rabb and Las Vegas’ Stephen Zimmerman generating the most UA attention at this point.
All are big-time prospects.
“I feel like a lot of the 2015 guys are five-star guys who can play, and what I’m hearing is we’re really going after Rabb hard, (Chase) Jeter hard and Chance Comanche,” Simon said. “As far as guards — Isaiah Briscoe and Allonzo Trier — whoever wants to come first (is fine). We’re willing to take either of those two, and I’m willing to play with either one of those guys as well.”
Smith indicated he has a similar attitude. More talent in the 2015 class means more competition for playing time, but he says he’s OK with that.
“I’m always a fighter,” Smith said. “So if anyone comes that’s in my position, I’ll be glad to fight them for my position.”
Simon received a taste of what that life will be like when he moved from his Gamepoint club team in Southern California to the prestigious Dream Vision club, which also featured Smith before he tore his ACL earlier this month and operates out of California and Las Vegas.
Instead of being a dominant point guard, Simon shared the position with Paris Austin and played the kind of combo guard role that he might at UA.
“I jumped in kind of late but it’s been great,” Simon said. “There’s a lot of firepower on this team. Anybody can score and everybody can defend at a high level, too. That makes everybody’s game better when everybody’s winning and making winning plays.”
“It was a great opportunity to go against new people and play against the best of the best. I’m doing better and working hard just experiencing it.”
Simon tasted even more intense competition when he tried out for USA Basketball’s U18 team last month in Colorado. Simon didn’t make the team but spent three days competing against top players from the 2014 and 2015 classes, while Miller was one of the coaches who worked with him.
“We talked and he gave me a few pointers,” Simon said. “It was a good experience and I look forward to just going there next year and learning, having an open mind.”
In the meantime, Simon said he was soaking up the last week of full travel-ball play. When things began to crumble with his Gamepoint travel club, he took the suggestion of Chase Jeter to join him on Dream Vision. Jeter, once a UA target, is widely expected to choose Duke soon.
As it turned out, Dream Vision reached the final of the Super 64, playing before an ESPNU audience Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas. Simon had 14 points and eight rebounds in the quarterfinals on Saturday. He added 12 points in Sunday morning’s semifinals and 13 points and five assists in the final, a 79-64 loss to Indiana Elite.
Knowing that he’s headed to UA — instead of entering the final stretch of the recruiting process, as many of his 2015 classmates are — is making it even easier.
“It’s so relaxing” with the decision over with, Simon said. “I can play my own game. The recruitment was a once in a lifetime thing that you go through. I’m glad I went through that process. I’m going to a great staff, just an overall great school. It’s a great fit.”