Soon after he was hired as the Arizona Wildcats' coach in April 2009, Sean Miller went to Los Angeles to meet a player who had decommitted from the Wildcats when Lute Olson retired and then committed to USC.
Miller had no idea if Solomon Hill would reconsider the Wildcats when he pulled up at Fairfax High School to meet him.
“He didn’t know me and I didn’t know him," Miller said. "He took a great leap of faith to come to Arizona at a time, at a desperate time, and we’re thankful that he did.
“He’s grown into a player that every head coach in our conference I would think have voted into an all Pac-12 performer; he was last year too. And he’s going to leave with his degree.”
The other of Miller's (probably) departing four-year seniors, Kevin Parrom, knew him well when he became UA coach. But Parrom, who had signed with Miller at Xavier, didn't know Arizona.
"He was going to Xavier and was from New York City," Miller said. "Had no reason to come out here but he believed in what we were doing. He’s gone through so many things off the court that could have derailed him but stayed with it and is playing really well right now.”
Two years after that, Miller found another unlikely Wildcat player once Mark Lyons became available on the NCAA's rent-a-grad market. Again, Lyons knew Miller, having spent a redshirt year under Miller at Xavier in 2008-09, but he did not know UA.
“Mark Lyons could have gone to Kentucky, Kansas, probably anywhere he wanted," Miller said. "He had no reason to come out here but he believed in what we were doing and wanted to be part of a team that had a lot of other things.. what he did was play a position he hasn’t played a lot.”
During his news conference Thursday, Miller also thanked senior walk-ons Max Wiepking and Quinton Crawford for their behind-the-scenes work, indicating he hoped the Wildcats would send them all off well.
“You’re around those kids for four years and it goes by quickly,” Miller said. “And you know once they leave that they’re not going to talk to you a whole lot. They’re going to move on with their lives. That’s what makes senior night so special. That’s really what we’ve dedicated this week for.”