UA coach Sean Miller watched and greeted Armstrong last week at Bella Vista.
It was an honor to have this many coaches in this past Monday! Excited to get back to work after 3 days off #BVBears @GreggRosenberg1 @azc_obert @ArizonaPreps @thegrindsession pic.twitter.com/YsjDJUw41c— Bella Vista Prep 🐻 (@BellaVistaHoops) September 17, 2018
Armstrong had released a top 10 on Aug. 4 that also included Michigan State, ASU, LSU, Mississippi State, Florida State and Xavier.
First chip to drop? Fellow five-stars could follow Mannion
Nico Mannion won’t be wearing a Wildcats uniform for another year, but the highly regarded new Arizona commit just might be dishing some pretty important assists very soon.
Like on Oct. 14, when the Wildcats host their Red-Blue Game with Mannion and fellow five-stars Josh Green and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in attendance. Arizona is also involved with a number of other four-and five-star recruits in the class of 2019, all of whom might give consideration to the skilled red-headed point guard who could be feeding them the ball in years to come.
“The perfect thing for (Arizona) is that Nico Mannion is that one guy that other high-level prospects want to play with,” 247Sports.com recruiting analyst Josh Gershon said. “It’s an especially big deal in this class — and I say this with no disrespect to Nico, because he’s a five-star player in any class — but it’s historically a down year for point guards. He’s probably the one guy in the class that other kids will want to play with.
“For Arizona, it’s going to be something they can sell to other recruits. It’s going to move the needle.”
Mannion is known for his friendship with Green, a native of Australia who moved to Phoenix and played with Deandre Ayton at Hillcrest Prep in 2016-17. Mannion and Green played together the past three travel-ball seasons with the California-based West Coast Elite, though Green now plays his high-school ball in Florida at IMG Academy.
“Nico and Josh Green are really close,” Gershon said. “So at worst, I think Arizona is (No.) 1 or 2” among Green’s favorites.
When recruiting analyst Jake Weingarten tweeted Friday that Mannion’s commitment to Arizona “will definitely have a huge impact on his best friend, Josh Green,” Mannion retweeted it … while tagging Green on his response and adding an eyeballs emoji, two question marks and emojis that say “Bear Down.”
Green announced a list of six finalists last month, including UA, North Carolina, Kansas, Villanova, USC and UNLV. According to Zagsblog, he has scheduled visits to North Carolina (Sept. 21-23) and to Arizona for the Red-Blue Game weekend so far.
According to 247’s Crystal Ball, however, it will take an upset for the Wildcats to land either Green or Robinson-Earl. Of Green, 83 percent of analysts on the Crystal Ball predicted he would choose North Carolina; all of them predicted Robinson-Earl would choose Kansas.
There are pretty clear reasons why: Robinson-Earl is a Kansas City product who is the son of former Jayhawks standout Lester Earl. He starred for Kansas City’s Bishop Miege High School before transferring this season to IMG Academy, where he now plays with Green.
According to Rivals, Robinson-Earl set up a string of five visits over six weekends: He was scheduled to visit Notre Dame last weekend, and Villanova this weekend. Then it’s North Carolina next weekend, Kansas the weekend of Sept. 28 and Arizona the weekend of Oct. 12-14.
The Wildcats have up to four scholarships to offer for the class of 2019 plus any that result from any early spring departures or transfers.
Preseason picks on Wildcats vary
The first two major college basketball annuals in circulation tell different stories about the 2018-19 Wildcats: While Athlon Sports picks the Wildcats to finish sixth in the Pac-12, with none of Arizona’s players listed among the top 100 in college basketball, Lindy’s ranked the Wildcats No. 16 nationally and second behind Oregon in the Pac-12.
And while Athlon has the Wildcats in the NIT, Lindy’s projected UA to reach the NCAA Sweet 16.
“We know... we are way higher on this team than anybody else,” Lindy’s wrote. “We’re going to get crushed for it, but here’s our guess: This roster gets (UA coach Sean) Miller back to his grittier Xavier days, when it was more about defensive toughness and cohesion, and less about getting a bunch of McDonalds All-Americans on the same page.”
Neither publication listed any UA players on its first- or second- all-Pac-12 teams, but guard Justin Coleman made Lindy’s third team while fellow grad transfer Ryan Luther made Athlon’s third team.
Athlon also picked Luther the league’s newcomer of the year while Lindy’s went with Oregon freshman center Bol Bol.
Among its Top 25, Athlon picked Oregon No. 17, Washington 20 and UCLA 21 out of the Pac-12. Lindy’s had Oregon 13th, UA 16th and UCLA No. 22.
Red-Blue tickets available
The Red-Blue Game has sold out for seven straight seasons, often quickly, though the school said last week that than 1,500 upper level seats still remained after they went on sale Aug. 18.
Seats are available in all upper level sections behind the baskets, according to a UA ticket map, and are priced at $7.