When the Arizona Wildcats wrapped up their fall recruiting class this week, it wasn’t about a finish line so much as a brief pause for reflection.
There’s plenty more work to be done, on the spring class of 2014, the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 — plus the constant need to keep an eye on jucos and potential transfers — in order to keep the roster full of talent.
That is, if you’re living the high-major life like Arizona is.
“I will tell you our staff spent an enormous amount of time on a daily basis recruiting this class, some of which we were able to attract and some of which we maybe didn’t get,” Miller said Friday, during his weekly news conference. “Recruiting is really, really hard and it’s harder now than ever.”
Miller signed four players this fall for his 2014 class and says he’s expecting to add one more in the spring, a “forward or frontcourt player for sure,” if there is room when all the early-departure dust clears in the spring. UA is one over the scholarship limit for 2014-15 as of now but is bracing for multiple early departures that would free up more scholarships.
“It could be a transfer or somebody who shows up in the spring,” Miller said. “And some of that will have to do with who won’t be here next year which obviously we don’t know the answer to that comprehensively right now.”
The best guess may be to just assume anyone could leave. After all, that’s pretty much what happened last spring, when the Wildcats lost seniors Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Mark Lyons as expected but also somewhat unexpectedly saw forwards Grant Jerrett (pro basketball) and Angelo Chol (San Diego State) bolt out of town.
“You have three dynamics,” Miller said. “A great talent who should leave early. A great talent who wants to leave early but isn’t ready. And then you have a talented player (for which) his time will come but they’re not willing to wait.”
Miller said that he thought “eventually we will all come to grips” with the idea that staying in college for more than a year is a good thing, but that’s not happening yet.
So what does all that mean?
More recruiting, of course.
Just about every position, every year. Because you never know who you’ll have back.
Recruiting “is incredibly difficult,” Miller said. “It’s all day, every day, and just the lifespan of a coach won’t be near where it was. Don’t ever compare the past to now because there’s no comparison because of all the dynamics that now are college basketball.
“But it’s like the foul situation with the officials — we all have to adapt and do the best we can. But from a recruiting perspective, (it’s no longer) getting a great class and having them be the future of your program. Getting a great class just means you’re covered for one year. And then you have to cover yourself for the next year.”
Fear of Dragons
The NIT Season Tip-Off pairings may scream “DUKE” at the Wildcats — that potential championship game matchup next Friday — but Miller doesn’t want to hear it.
First, there’s a semifinal game with Drexel on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
The Dragons play in the lightly regarded Colonial Athletic Association but could win that league with a high-major-quality backcourt and a veteran roster overall. They put a scare in UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in the season opener, losing by five points, then won at Illinois State, before beating Elon and Rutgers at Rutgers in the NIT earlier this week.
“They could have beaten UCLA at UCLA, and we all know how good UCLA is this year,” Miller said. “They’re not pretty good. They’re really good.
“They’re a disciplined team, older, experienced, well-coached. They have a toughness about them that I wish and hope we could get, but we don’t have right now because they’re much more experienced and seasoned than we are.”
Miller said he thought the Dragons would win 20 games and reach the NCAA tournament this season, comparing the difficulty of Wednesday’s matchup to that of San Diego State, which UA beat on the road Nov. 14.
“If we go to Madison Square Garden with anything else on our mind, we’re going to be in the consolation game on Friday,” Miller said. “We won’t be in the championship game.”
After playing in his first two college games earlier this week, guard Elliott Pitts may face a stiff battle to get on the floor in the rest of them. But he’s OK with that.
“Just coming to practice every day, I know I’ve gotta be at my best,” Pitts said Friday. “The competition is tough, but I think that’s better because I can personally get better against the best competition.”
Already, Pitts said his shooting has improved this fall while he’s also adjusted to the physicality of the college game.
“That’s something I kind of struggled with when I first got here but now I’m starting to get used to it,” Pitts said.
Setback for Peters
Even though he was cleared medically to play just before the season began because of his history of concussions, freshman transfer forward Zach Peters has played just 15 total minutes over three games.
Miller said that’s because Peters hurt his ankle last week and, combined with his preseason restrictions, has participated fully in only about six of 35 practices.
“When six becomes 60 that will be a big difference,” Miller said. “He’s better now, but he needs practice time.”