Sean Miller may have signed a top-five recruiting class this fall, but he is hardly resting on his laurels.
Or resting, period.
It just buys him a little time.
It’s no longer “getting a great class and having them be the future of your program,” Miller said today, upon discussing his 2014 signees for the first time. “Getting a great class just means you’re covered for one year. And then you have to cover yourself for the next year.”
Miller said the recruiting dynamics changed about five years ago for high major programs but he lived it first-hand when he lost not only Derrick Williams early in 2011 but also Grant Jerrett early last spring.
“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 talented player (for which) his time will come but they’re not willing to wait."
One of Miller’s four signees, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, is only 5-foot-8 and has said coaches have been scared off in the recruitment process by his height.
I asked Miller what he thought about that. He immediately mentioned Drew Lavender, his 5-foot-7 point guard at Xavier from 2006-08.
“Drew Lavender took us to an Elite Eight,” Miller said. “At that position, it’s more about their style and how they play the game than how tall they are. There are 6-4 point guards who are a disaster. There are 5-8 or 5-9 point guards that every coach would love to have.
“To me, he understands how to use his abilities. He’s got great quickness, great vision and as he gets bigger and stronger how tall he is will be less important for him.”
Here’s how Miller discussed all four of his signees when he was asked to break them down today:
On guard Jackson-Cartwright:
“We identified Parker early on as a true pass-first point guard. He has a great command of the game, a high basketball IQ, has played in a winning program against the nation’s best competition and I believe Parker will come here and be our future point guard.”
On wing Stanley Johnson:
“Stanley is one of the most unique players I’ve ever seen and for us to have him is a great feeling. He combines this incredible physical ability, being a 6-6 wing, being explosive, being 230, 240 pounds as a young kid, and yet being such a smart skilled kid as a basketball player. Very seldom do those two qualities become one with a player of that age. I think he has a chance to be really special. And anytime you’re competing for your fourth (state) championship, that speaks volumes, of the program, and also who he is.”
On Craig Victor:
“I think it’s a great advantage for kids to leave home and be in that type of structured environment (at Findlay Prep) on a daily basis, in a competitive environment. Their transition from high school to college isn’t as big and with Craig, he has intangibles, he’s great competitor and a winner. A versatile 6-7, 6-8 forward who can step away from the basket, a physical type of player who’s only getting better right now. We’re excited about Craig.”
On guard Kadeem Allen: “He doesn’t have the fanfare because he’s not out on the high school circuit but Kadeem we feel is one of the best junior college players in the country, has a chance to win the junior college national championship. His length of arms, 6-9, I think you’d look at that and say he has a chance to be an elite defender. He won’t play one position at Arizona but will play two (both guard spots). I think he also comes at a great time.”
Miller had more comments in a statement released by UA today.
If the NIT Season Tip-Off pairings scream “DUKE” at the Wildcats, Miller doesn’t want to hear it.
First, there’s a semifinal game with Drexel on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
The Dragons are 3-1, losing by five points at UCLA in the opener, winning at Illinois State, then beating Elon and Rutgers at Rutgers in the NIT earlier this week.
“They’re not pretty good. They’re really good,” Miller said. “For us our whole focus going to New York City is to be at our best on Wednesday against Drexel. 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 the toughness that they have right now because they’re much more experienced, and seasoned than we are.
“They’re a team that’s going to win 20 or more games and I believe they’re going to be in the NCAA tournament. If we go to Madison Square Garden with anything else on our mind, we’re going to be in the consolation game on Friday. We won’t be in the championship game. It’s going to be in my opinion the same type of game as we played at San Diego State and I hope we’re a better team in Madison Square Garden than then because we’re going to need to be.”