Gary McKnight, the longtime coach at Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei, sends players to high-level Divi-sion I schools every year. Among them: Former UA standouts Reggie Geary and Miles Simon.
But when it comes to powerful wing Stanley Johnson, a top UA target from the class of 2014, McKnight sees something else all together.
"He's one of the top players ever. Best player I've ever had," McKnight told the Star. "Tell Miles that, too."
McKnight said Geary even gets upset at him for saying Johnson is the best Mater Dei player, but there are reasons.
"He's a beast," McKnight said of Johnson, a well-built 6-foot-6-inch wing. "He can do whatever he wants. He can play point guard, center, wing - and he's extremely intelligent. I mean, he really understands the game."
He's also a team player, said Oakland Soldiers coach Jules Milstead. Johnson played two games for Mater Dei in the Fab 48, while also playing full time for the Oakland Soldiers about six miles away in the Las Vegas Classic.
"It's pretty tiring," Johnson said.
The good news for Arizona: Johnson has already visited Tucson twice unofficially and said he plans to take an official recruiting visit in the fall. He's also considering schools such as Louisville, Kentucky, UCLA, Oregon and USC.
The power of ESPN
Houston-based basketball organizer Hal Pastner built up his Las Vegas Classic travel-ball tournament in part by placing his prestigious club team, the Houston Hoops, in it every year.
But this year, the Hoops and top UA target Justise Winslow are playing in the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando, Fla., forcing the Arizona staff to monitor Florida as well as Las Vegas.
Why? Television, of course.
Pastner, the father of former UA aide and Memphis coach Josh Pastner, said he had the Hoops play in his less-prestigious Las Vegas Live event earlier this month and couldn't let the 6-5 Winslow and the club pass up an opportunity to play on ESPNU in Orlando.
"I said, 'Let them go,'" Pastner explained. "They helped me for the weaker of the events and said they wanted to go on ESPN. I said, 'I'd love you to stay, but how can I tell you to pass that up?'"
New Orleans 6-7 power forward Craig Victor could become the newest Arizona Wildcat, the way he spoke during the Super 64 event.
Victor, a Top 25 prospect in the class of 2014, said he will decide either this week or after taking a few visits next month. He is also considering Louisville, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas and LSU.
Arizona "might be where I'm headed," Victor said. "I'm not too sure, but it's looking pretty good over there."
A fourth event jumped onto the crowded Las Vegas scene this weekend with a unique niche. Instead of featuring hundreds of teams scattered all over town, The Eight features only eight of the top travel teams and has them being coached by current or former NBA players.
Among the UA targets involved are 2015 guard Isaiah Briscoe (New Jersey Playaz) and 2014 big men Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander (Mac Irvin Fire).
The "coaches" include Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis, and games are being played at Impact Basketball, a site just south of the Las Vegas Strip, where many NBA players work out.
Never too soon
His sophomore season in high school hasn't even begun yet, but wing forward Vance Jackson of Pasadena, Calif., already has three high-major scholarship offers - from Connecticut, Washington and Arizona.
He may need to think about it for a while, though.
"I don't know what I prefer yet," Jackson said. "Where I'm shooting for in college is where I fit best."
A long and versatile wing player, the 6-6 Jackson said he likes the Wildcats' style of play.
The big number
Approximate number of teams participating this weekend in Las Vegas' three main tournaments: The Fab 48, Super 64 and Las Vegas Classic
The demands of intense recruiting attention and multiple daily games can take a toll on a five-star prospect such as 2015 big man Stephen Zimmerman during July, but he has two advantages.
For one thing, he lives in Las Vegas. For another, he lets his parents handle all the recruiting calls from coaches.
"That really helps me out a lot," Zimmerman said.
Arizona offered Zimmerman, a multi-skilled 6-11 center, after his freshman year at Bishop Gorman High School, and Zimmerman took an unofficial visit after that. But Zimmerman said he's still wide open with his potential college choices and is unsure where he will take unofficial visits next.
"He's the same person he is on TV. He's just straight-up with you."
- UA commit Parker Jackson-Cartwright, on his travel-ball coach, Miles Simon, a former Wildcat who is also a color commentator for ESPN