With McDonald’s All American Stanley Johnson joining the Wildcats next year, Arizona is expected to remain near the top of the rankings, even if a couple of players leave early for the NBA.

Andrew Nelles

Even without Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, the Arizona Wildcats may still become one of the nation’s top two teams entering next season.

At least that’s the opinion of a flood of early 2014-15 predictions that were posted Tuesday, a day after the 2013-14 season concluded.

The Wildcats were named the as-of-now No. 1 team by The Sporting News, ESPN, Yahoo! Sports and NBC, while USA Today and CBS Sports analysts had the Wildcats second behind only Duke.

The predictions were made with a varying degree of assumptions over which players will return, but most projected Gordon and Johnson will not be in the Wildcats’ lineup. Both Gordon and Johnson are expected to leave but have until April 27 to formally declare for the NBA draft.

Wrote NBC’s Rob Dauster, “As long as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski return, and assuming Brandon Ashley doesn’t go pro, Sean Miller will have another loaded roster at his disposal.”

Of course, Miller’s powerhouse 2014 recruiting class has a lot to do with it.

The Wildcats will be bringing in five-star guard Stanley Johnson, along with potential contributors in guards Kadeem Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, forward Craig Victor and center Dusan Ristic.

“Coach Sean Miller has an outstanding recruiting class on the way, led by forward Stanley Johnson, one of the true impact players in the Class of 2014,” Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan wrote. “There are a few early-entry decisions Wildcat fans will have to sweat through, though, before the 2014-15 team picture becomes fully focused.”

Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg says UA’s status as a clear national title favorite will depend on those decisions.

“Gordon is likely to leave, and Johnson may, too, even though he’s a projected second-round pick since he can’t play too much better than he did during an All-America junior season,” Eisenberg wrote.

“As long as those two are the only key departures and Hollis-Jefferson or Tarczewski aren’t tempted, Arizona will be very, very good.”

Stanley Johnson named Player of


MaxPreps named UA signee Stanley Johnson its national high school player of the year, after the powerful wing forward capped his career by leading Mater Dei High School to a California State Open Division title and unbeaten record.

The Monarchs were 35-0 overall while going 9-0 against teams that played for a state title, and finished as the nation’s No. 1 team in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings.

Johnson averaged 25 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game, according to MaxPreps, and often played point guard out of necessity.

Peters stays upbeat

Despite playing just 31 total minutes over 11 games during his freshman season, forward Zach Peters said he was not discouraged.

Peters transferred from Kansas last summer with a history of concussions over the previous two years but was cleared to play fully in early November.

Still, he remained firmly outside the Wildcats’ playing rotation.

“We talked about me redshirting when I first got here, so I kind of knew” playing time would be limited, Peters said during the NCAA tournament. “I knew that there was a huge possibility I wouldn’t be ready in time. So I expected it.”

Peters said he tried to help as much as he could during practices and was “excited” to improve in the offseason.

Miller and the Wildcats have been unavailable for comment since the season ended. The coach typically holds extended meetings with returning players shortly after the final game.

Rim shots

  • UA graduate assistant
  • Joseph Blair
  • is running his second annual “Putt-ing Kids First” event on Saturday at Golf N’ Stuff. The mini-golf tournament and event is a fundraiser for Blair’s tuition-free Arizona Basketball Academy Program. Tickets, which are $45 for the event only and $60 including the tournament, are available at 303-5604.
  • Oregon guard
  • Joseph Young
  • announced he will return to the Ducks for his senior season. He led Oregon in scoring with an average of 18.9 points per game.
  • Utah freshman forward
  • Ahmad Fields
  • is transferring from the Utes, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Sportswriter for the Arizona Daily Star covering Arizona Wildcats basketball