Arizona charged into the spring signing period with a sixth straight top-five class Wednesday, after five-star Texas guard Terrance Ferguson announced he would play for the Wildcats next season.
The UA will receive a big dose of zone-busting shooting and potential defense in the athletic and wiry 6-foot-6-inch Ferguson, who announced on Twitter that he chose UA over Baylor, Kansas, North Carolina and SMU.
Arizona had just one letter of intent — from Finnish forward Lauri Markkanen — last November but now has three more five-star talents lined up in what 24/7 Sports says is now the No. 3 class in 2016.
The class includes five-star guards Kobi Simmons of Georgia and Rawle Alkins of New York. The UA confirmed the receipt of Simmons’ letter of intent via Twitter on Wednesday, the first day of the spring signing period, but did not confirm receiving one from Alkins.
Alkins, who was not available for comment Wednesday, is still expected to sign with the UA.
Ranked No. 13 by ESPN and Scout, Ferguson is the highest-rated player in UA’s star-studded class. Scout ranks Simmons No. 18 and Alkins No. 20 and places Markkanen in the five-star category, though he is not ranked because he’s based in Europe.
A 190-pound wing who hit seven 3-pointers for the USA Basketball in the Hoop Summit game Saturday, Ferguson committed to Alabama last August but decommitted March 1. The only visit he took after his decommitment was to Arizona, adding to speculation he would choose the Wildcats.
Ferguson told the Star before the McDonald’s Game that he might take visits to Kansas and Baylor, but said via Twitter on Tuesday that he decided not to take any more visits and would announce his choice within a week.
During interviews before and after his announcement, Ferguson made it clear that UA coach Sean Miller was the driving force behind his decision.
Ferguson played on the USA Basketball team that Miller led to the FIBA U19 World Championships last July and told the Star in Las Vegas later that month that he would “love to be coached” by Miller, even as he chose Alabama a month later.
After Ferguson reopened his recruitment last month, he and Miller began communicating again. Miller even sent Ferguson a text message after UA’s loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament that he would have loved to have had Ferguson in uniform that day.
“He’s one of the best coaches in college basketball, so just to hear him say that to me especially after a loss like that, I really appreciated it,” Ferguson told the Star before the McDonald’s All America game.
Ferguson visited Arizona before the March 30 McDonald’s All America game, when the Wildcats were over a week removed from their NCAA Tournament loss.
“It was a fun visit,” he said. “I had a good time hanging out with the players off the court,” Ferguson said. “Everyone was having fun. Nothing too serious. It was great to see how Coach Miller was off the floor, just relaxed and not being so nervous.”
Although Ferguson was not available for comment Wednesday, he told Scout that he liked Miller’s personality and coaching style with the U19 team.
“I have a lot of trust in Coach Miller,” Ferguson told Scout. “He believed in me, played me in the right style. I love the style of play, and I love Coach Miller as a coach.”
Ferguson also told Scout he knew Arizona would be a “perfect place for me” following his conversations with Miller.
On his Twitter page, Ferguson posted a note explaining his choice, thanking his family, coaches, supporters and even “all the haters around” who kept him motivated.
“Thanks for being so focused on my life waiting for my downfall, you all really kept me motivated and added fuel to the fire,” Ferguson said of his detractors. “Last but not least, I want to thank each and every school who recruited me, means a lot that y’all wanted to take a chance on a young man like me that came from nothing.”
With Ferguson, UA has two open scholarships remaining for 2016-17, and three if Elliott Pitts does not return to the Wildcats after leaving them for an unspecified reason in February. Miller has said he is aiming to add a total of six or seven players in the 2016 class, and he might also target transfers for his remaining openings.