The cities are only about a 6 1/2-hour drive apart but Tucson and Las Vegas share recruiting stories impacting the University of Arizona that seem endless.
Much to Jerry Tarkanian’s chagrin, Lute Olson recruited Matt Othick from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School to Arizona in 1989. Olson also landed Othick’s former Bishop Gorman teammate Brian Williams (later known as Bison Dele) when he transferred to Arizona after leaving Maryland in 1988.
Some believe that Tarkanian’s “Midnight Lute” line was a result of Olson attracting Othick in the last hour away from UNLV. Not so.
Tom Tolbert changed his mind in the final hour about attending UNLV and decided to play for the UA out of Cerritos (Calif.) Junior College, prompting Tarkanian to dub Olson, “Midnight Lute”, for snatching away his recruit at the last minute.
In a December 2009 blog for the Las Vegas Sun, Tarkanian wrote, “Matt Othick would have played much better for us at UNLV than he did for Arizona.” According to Tarkanian, Othick committed to UNLV but withdrew after Greg Anthony transferred there.
Arizona coach Sean Miller targeted another Bishop Gorman standout — Shabazz Muhammad — especially early in the recruiting process, but Muhammad is taking his skills to UCLA next season. Miller still technically has two Las Vegas-area products on his 2012-13 roster — sophomore guard Nick Johnson and freshman forward/center Brandon Ashley, both of whom finished their high school careers with Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep.
The Wildcats managed to get one of Muhammad’s fellow Bishop Gorman students — senior-to-be quarterback Anu Solomon — who committed to Rich Rodriguez’s program Sunday.
Solomon, a 6-foot-1-inch and 200-pound athletic quarterback, follows in the footsteps of some accomplished Las Vegas athletes who signed with the Arizona football program in recent years.
They include departed receiver Juron Criner (Las Vegas Canyon Springs High School) and running back Keola Antolin (another Bishop Gorman grad), and sophomore receiver Garic Wharton (Las Vegas Valley High School).
During spring drills in April, Rodriguez told Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com that Wharton “is a talented guy (and) his time has come.”
When Solomon comes to Tucson for the 2013 season as a freshman he could be throwing Wharton’s way.
Solomon, with also had offers from Arizona State, UCLA, Utah and UNLV, told the Las Vegas Sun on Sunday, “I feel like Arizona is the right place for me. I am comfortable with (committing early).”
He will be a four-year starter at three-time defending state champion Gorman. Statistically, he is the most accomplished passer in Nevada history. In three years, he’s passed for 7,215 yards and 101 touchdowns, including completing 65 percent of his passes last season. He thew for 2,770 yards and 41 touchdowns with just two interceptions in the 2011 season.
Solomon also rushed for 402 yards and six touchdowns on 57 carries. His versatility fits the mold (i.e. Pat White and Dernard Robinson) of the quarterback Rodriguez needs for his spread offense.
“It was everything from the campus to the staff, and the community and the education,” Solomon told the Las Vegas Sun for the reasons he committed to Arizona.
The Las Vegas-to-Tucson pipeline could also include Canyon Springs running back Donnell Pumphrey, who according to Scout.com, is being recruited by the Wildcats. Class of 2014 safety Nathan Starks, a teammate of Solomon’s at Bishop Gorman, is also being recruited by Arizona, according to Scout.com.
Solomon is ahead on the depth chart at Bishop Gorman to junior quarterback Randall Cunningham Jr., the son of the former UNLV and NFL quarterback. Plenty of schools, potentially including Arizona, will be recruiting Cunningham Jr. when he finally gets a chance to start his senior season in 2013.
“He looks exactly like I did, but he’s faster than I was,” Cunningham Sr. told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He’s very smart, and he understands the game.”
In basketball recruiting, Muhammad’s younger brother, senior-to-be Rashad Muhammad, a shooting guard at Bishop Gorman, is being recruited by Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson. Findlay Prep point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who will be a senior next season, has also garnered interest from Miller and his staff in the past.
Miller is thankful the Pac-12 is moving its conference tournament to Las Vegas beginning next season because of Tucson’s proximity to Las Vegas. He told a group of UA supporters in Phoenix last week that he hopes UA fans take advantage of the move of the tourney from Los Angeles and fill the MGM Grand Arena.
Also to maintain a presence in Las Vegas, Miller has agreed to a four-year series with UNLV starting in 2013-14.