Serbian 7-foot center Dusan Ristic, a projected NBA first-round draft choice in 2015 by DraftExpress.com, will likely commit to Arizona on Saturday before he plays that day for Wichita (Kan.) Sunrise Academy.
Ristic, who reportedly enjoyed his visit to Tucson over the weekend, is not slated to take any other official trips. Nebraska figured to have a chance because former Australian-Serbian big man Aleks Maric enjoyed his four-year career there.
Without Ristic visiting Lincoln, Neb., and avoiding contact with other programs, it’s a foregone conclusion that the 7’0″ and 240-pound force around the basket will be in Tucson this summer preparing for his freshman season at Arizona.
“He came here (from Serbia on Jan. 18) because Arizona recruited him,” Sunrise Christian coach Kyle Lindsted told SNY.tv. “He’s Arizona’s to lose.”
Ristic’s addition provides Sean Miller much-needed depth at the post next season. His presence, especially on the offensive end with his footwork, will cause matchup problems for opponents. He also is a solid rebounder.
Despite Ristic’s lofty NBA draft status in 2015, the 18-year-old prospect will undoubtedly need time to acclimate himself to major college basketball in the United States. This benefits Miller and his staff in terms of chemistry because Ristic should not expect star status from the start.
He will benefit playing against Kaleb Tarczewski, if Tarczewski is not tempted to leave to the NBA and decides to stay for his junior season. Tarczewski could also use that experience of facing Ristic daily to improve his NBA potential.
Tarczewski is not forecast to go in the first round this year by DraftExpress.com. In fact, the Web site, run by scouting guru Jonathon Givony, has Tarczewski going as the 27th pick in the first round in 2015, one spot behind Ristic.
Aaron Gordon is likely gone to the NBA this year as a lottery pick. Rumor has it that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is looking at his draft potential (he is also not listed by Givony and DraftExpress.com). Brandon Ashley would do himself a favor by working his way back strong from foot surgery by returning to Arizona for his junior season. He could become an All-Pac-12 performer.
Serbian Center Dusan Ristic will announce his college decision on Saturday. All signs pointing to Arizona, where he visited this weekend.
If Gordon only leaves, Arizona’s frontcourt could consist of Ashley, Tarczewski, Ristic, Hollis-Jefferson (who has filled in occasionally at power forward), freshman power forward Craig Victor (a burgeoning talent with an aggressive style with a New Orleans background), Matt Korcheck (a solid practice player and spot contributor) and Zach Peters (who could overcome concussion issues and return to the type of talent that made Kansas coach Bill Self recruit him out of high school).
That’s seven frontcourt players, with Ashley, Tarczewski and Hollis-Jefferson getting most of the minutes. With their size and tendency for foul trouble, they will need reinforcements. Victor and Ristic could play 15-20 minutes a game. Korcheck could increase from less than 5 minutes a game this season to 10 to 15. Peters can also use the experience to his benefit of going against Ristic and Tarczewski in practice.
Fourteen scholarships — only 13 are allowed by the NCAA — will be occupied if Gordon is the only defection to the NBA and nobody goes elsewhere. Miller will deal with that when he must. For now, landing a center like Ristic, who should be eager to learn and improve his defense and play within the system, outweighs everything for Miller.
Combine the promising frontcourt with a perimeter game featuring the senior leadership of T.J. McConnell and perhaps Nick Johnson (if he does not go to the NBA), Arizona is primed for another Pac-12 title run. The ever-improving Gabe York and Elliott Pitts and freshman sensation Stanley Johnson makes Arizona’s perimeter game more dangerous than its potent inside strength.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright, the incoming freshman point guard who is ironing out his academic issues, should be hungry to learn under McConnell and Johnson. In terms of chemistry, he will not demand a lot of playing time.
Everything should mesh together nicely for Miller, starting Saturday before Ristic takes the court for Sunrise Academy, an appropriate name considering the circumstances. Although Arizona’s current dream season is nearing a conclusion, the sun will rise and beam strong in 2014-15.