Nico Mannion is expected to sign with the Arizona Wildcats on Wednesday. 

LAS VEGAS — Instead of cutting down his list to five finalists Wednesday, Nico Mannion actually added a couple.

They’re big hitters, too: Kentucky and North Carolina.

“North Carolina did call, Kentucky called,” the five-star point guard from Phoenix said Wednesday at the Under Armour Association Finals. “I didn’t get to talk to Roy (Williams, UNC coach) but my dad talked to him. I talked to (Kentucky coach John) Calipari twice in the last week.”

Both Kentucky and North Carolina jumped in as word spread that Mannion was moving up to the class of 2019 over the summer, a reclassification he announced last week.

That’s probably not good news for Arizona, although the Wildcats have impressed the Pinnacle High School star during several unofficial visits, including last season’s Red-Blue Game and regular-season games against UConn and UCLA.

“I’ve been there quite a few times,” Mannion said. “The environment is great. Even the Red-Blue Game is just a scrimmage and a dunk contest but it’s sold out. There’s not much you can say about it — it’s just a great environment.”

Mannion said he’s planning to cut his list down sometime after the July evaluation period ends this weekend and then start scheduling visits. But he said he isn’t planning to make a commitment until January or February because he wants to take official visits during the season in order to get a feel for the regular-season environment.

Mannion said he thinks Arizona might change to a more perimeter-oriented, faster style next season and that he is curious to see how it plays out.

“I want to watch them play and see how their style changes, if it changes,” Mannion said, and “see who they recruit, who’s coming in and who’s staying and stuff like that.”

Mannion helped the West Coast Elite beat the Atlanta Xpress 79-71 on Wednesday despite not having teammate Josh Green, another five-star Arizona target.

That’s something WCE will have to get used to: Green is out all week after separating his right shoulder last week.

“It’s a big loss,” Mannion said. “He’s obviously one of our best players and best defenders. Him going down means everybody has to step up a little more.”

Green attended the game in a black Under Armour shirt, and tried to keep an upbeat tone.

“It’s definitely tough but it’s a team game,” he said. “I’m happy with the way the season ended.”

Crazy scene Wednesday night in the tiny Liberty High School auxiliary gym, where a game featuring LeBron James’ son (with dad watching) was canceled.

Fans crowded around doors entering the 13U game of Bronny James, so much so that they nearly spilled into the main court, which featured the Las Vegas Prospects (and their many UA targets) and later the Oakland Soldiers.

While I couldn’t get in, either, the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Sam Gordon said a pregame ruckus developed after a fan heckled James.


Bruce is a veteran Star sports reporter who has also worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He graduated from Northwestern University and has an MBA from Thunderbird.