Arizona Wildcats sports logo — generic

Editor’s note: The Star’s Zack Rosenblatt is counting down the 50 best athletes on the University of Arizona campus right now, with help from athletes, coaches and those close to the program.

No. 15: Jordan Geist

The details: Geist is a 6-foot-2, 275-pound thrower from Pennsylvania entering his freshman season with Arizona’s track and field program. Geist is considered one of the best high school shotput throwers in the history of the sport — not just in Pennsylvania — and currently is competing in the Pan American Junior Championships in Peru, along with incoming UA freshmen discus thrower Turner Washington and sophomore high jumpers Justice Summerset and Karla Teran. Geist qualified for the Pan Am Championships after claiming first place at the USATF Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento last month.

Geist, the No. 1 high school shot-putter in the nation, committed to the Wildcats thanks largely to the work of UA throws coach T.J. Crater, who has recruiting ties in Pennsylvania from his time at Penn State. Geist initially favored Arizona State, but after Sun Devils throws coach David Dumble left, Arizona was in the driver’s seat and reeled him in. In addition to ASU, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Indiana were also in the picture.

“It just felt comfortable,” Crater said. “All of our conversations, it just turned out that we had the team, the weather, the coaching and the major (business) he wanted. I equate it to the perfect storm, it just worked out. … He was looking for warm weather, a good team, good coaching, the educational side of things. If there was ever a set to boxes to check off, I think Arizona met all of his needs and it was a good fit for us and a good fit for him.”

The numbers: Geist holds the Pennsylvania state record, which he set as a junior, with a top throw of 74 feet, 3ƒ inches, and he recently set a personal record of 76 feet in winning at the New Balance Outdoor Championships in North Carolina. At New Balance, Geist also won the 12-pound hammer throw with a mark of 238 feet and 9 inches, and finished second — to Washington — in discus with a 201 feet, 9-inch throw. His personal-best 12-pound shotput mark indoors is 76 feet, 10ƒ inches.

The value: Geist has a legitimate case as the top track and field recruit to ever join UA’s program, and along with Washington should help bring Arizona’s throws program to elite status.

Why Geist? This question can be answered with an anecdote from Crater.

“Last December, Jordan threw at an indoor meet in Pennsylvania. He threw a 16-pound shot, which is what we throw at the collegiate and international level. His average was probably around 64 feet, which is enough to be an All-American at NCAAs and have a chance to win Pac-12s, but what he did was he threw his last throw over 68 feet, which would’ve won several of the last NCAA Championships. It was a great throw, well above his average, but that was the moment we all sat back and said ‘whoa.’”

Proof he’s good: The proof is in the numbers, and the numbers are good. Consider: Geist’s best shotput throw is 7 feet better than the best throw in Arizona prep history, set by Dallas Long all the way back in 1958. Geist also has the best nickname on this list — the Knochness Monster, a reference to the name of his high school, Knoch.

What Geist can accomplish: As a freshman, he has the talent and track record to compete for NCAA and Pac-12 titles and seems prime to at least become an All-American in his first year. It wouldn’t be surprising if, at this time next year, Geist is at or near the top of this list.

Coachspeak: “Everybody on the outside is kind of crowning him the next big thing, and obviously we believe he can be great, but I constantly remind people that this is a young man who is 18 years old, who is moving away from home for the first time and he’s going to be 2,000 miles from his family. … But he’s a talented kid, he’s got the competitive mindset, he’s smart in the classroom and he’s a great person.” — Crater

He said it: “I think I’m definitely a mentally stronger athlete this year. I thought this offseason, I just learned more about myself as an athlete, what my body needs to get ready for big meets and the type of training I need to be doing. … I’ve really cleaned up my diet this year, compared to what it was last year.” — Geist to the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette earlier this year.

Contact: zrosenblatt@tucson.com or 573-4145. On Twitter: @ZackBlatt