Arizona basketball recruiting classes

Rating Arizona Wildcats basketball recruiting classes: 1981-1983 (Transitional years)

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CURRENT WILDCAT TARGETS

Class of 2015
Isaiah Briscoe, PF, 6’3″, 215, Newark (N.J.) Roselle Catholic
Very good at creating his own shot. Good ball-handler who can score off penetration. His aggressive style results in drawing contact and fouls. He can be a streaky shooter but he shows a good touch from three-point range. defenders into fouls, applying pressure to opponents despite not being a truly elite above-the-rim finisher. His jump shot also carries range to the three-point line but tends to be streaky.

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NextCats

SERIES LINKS

Fred Snowden era (1972-1982)
Lute Olson era (1983-2007)
— Sean Miller era (2009-present)

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Lute Olson made an immediate impact on Arizona after moving from Iowa in 1983

Lute Olson made an immediate impact on Arizona after moving from Iowa in 1983

This segment in the series addresses Fred Snowden’s last recruiting class, Ben Lindsey’s only class and Lute Olson’s first class from 1981 to 1983.

Olson’s impressive assemblage of talent in the Class of 1983 immediately after his hire, with Steve Kerr, Eddie Smith and Pete Williams, was strong enough to overcome the extreme shortcomings of the group of players Snowden and Lindsey attracted in 1982 and 1983.

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Snowden and Lindsey inked 13 players in those two years. Only three of them played an entire four-year career — Brock Brunkhorst, Keith Jackson and David Haskin. Snowden’s recruiting decline over the last few years of his career and Lindsey’s failure as a head coach in 1982-83 could have set Arizona back a few years.

Snowden reportedly did not recruit successfully like he did at the start of his Arizona career because he had an extreme fear of flying. He relied on his assistant coaches to close the deal on recruits outside of the state. He started to recruit more local talent, which was not always a good formula because the overall pool was lacking.

Snowden was successful at the start of his career because he knew the Midwestern talent of Eric Money, Coniel Norman, Al Fleming and Bob Elliott, etc., having been in that area as Michigan’s assistant coach.


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Lindsey recruited primarily junior college transfers who did not make a strong impact on the program. Troy Cooke and Ken Ensor survived the transition to the Olson regime. They contributed as reserves during Olson’s first season of 1983-84.

Morgan Taylor was another junior college recruit signed by Lindsey who missed Olson’s first season for academic reasons. He started 12 games as a senior in 1984-85.

Olson’s magic became immediate at Arizona with the signing of Kerr, Williams and Smith.

Kerr was not a highly-sought prospect out of Pacific Palisades, Calif. Only Gonzaga showed moderate interest. Olson reportedly noticed Kerr’s shooting ability while scouting high school juniors in California. He offered Kerr a scholarship despite never seeing him play in high school.

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A historic day in the UA hoops program -- the day Lute Olson and assistant Ken Burmeister (far left) signed Pete Williams in 1983 (Pete Williams photo)

A historic day in the UA hoops program — the day Lute Olson and assistant Ken Burmeister (far left) signed Pete Williams in 1983 (Pete Williams photo)

Arizona was also fortunate that Williams and Smith were late-signing junior college transfers who slipped through the cracks until Olson could snatch them.

The Wildcats started to build momentum for success in Olson’s first year by winning six of their last eight games to finish 11-17 and tied for fifth in the Pac-10 at 8-10.

“It’s a miracle the job Lute did at Arizona this season,” the late Marv Harshman of Washington told the Associated Press in 1984. “He took two freshmen (Kerr and guard Michael Tait), two junior college transfers (Williams and Smith) and leftovers and made them a competitive team.

“He is one of a few I have ever seen who can take a junior college player and get him to contribute within the system his first year.”

Head coach: Fred Snowden

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Developments: Brock Brunkhorst and Keith Jackson are the only recruits in this five-player class (Snowden’s last) to play through their senior seasons and into the Lute Olson era. Brunkhorst leads Arizona in assists in three seasons and is an honorable mention selection for the All-Pac-10 team in 1984-85. Jackson becomes a role player starting only 20 games in his career. Mark Jung, the 7-foot brother of former Arizona player Brian Jung (both of Canyon del Oro), transfers after one season. John Vlahogeorge, a walk-on from Tucson High, also only lasts one season (although he started against Cal in 1981-82). Jack Magno, a JC transfer, is a Pac-10 All-Academic selection in 1981-82 who quits the team midway through his senior season of 1982-83 because of his discontent with embattled coach Ben Lindsey.
NBA draft picks (0): None.
All-conference selections (0): None.
Conference players of the year: None.
All-Americans: None.
Three years later (1983-84): Arizona finishes 11-17 in Lute Olson’s first season with Brunkhorst starting all 18 Pac-10 games and 27 of the 28 regular season games at point guard.
Rating: 1.4 out of 5 stars. Comment: Snowden’s last class shows how much he loses his recruiting touch from when he came to Tucson in 1972 to when he exits as coach 10 years later.

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Recruits.81

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Head coach: Ben Lindsey

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Developments: Lindsey recruits Greg Scott, Puntus Wilson and Todd Porter are not retained by Olson the following season. Ken Ensor, David Haskin, Troy Cooke and Morgan Taylor remain in the program. Haskin started 17 games in Olson’s first season. Taylor starts 12 games as a senior in 1984-85. Greg Taylor (no relation) lasts only two seasons.
NBA draft picks (0): None.
All-conference selections (0): None.
Conference players of the year: None.
All-Americans: None.
Three years later (1984-85): Arizona finishes 21-10 and returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1977. Only Haskin and Taylor are there to experience it.
Rating: 1.1 stars out of 5. Comment: Unlike Snowden, Lindsey does not work magic with his first recruiting class and it is one reason for his quick demise.

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Recruits.82

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Head coach: Lute Olson

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Developments: Steve Kerr, Eddie Smith and Pete Williams provide the right kind of heart and talent to get Olson’s program up and running. Kerr, an inspirational leader, becomes the school’s top three-point shooter. Smith is one the best clutch players in the Olson era. Williams, a wiry 6’7″ post player, is referred to by Olson as his best pure rebounder throughout the coach’s time at Arizona. Michael Tait had promise at guard but opted to transfer after his freshman year for personal reasons. Van Beard also transfers.
NBA draft picks (3): Kerr (1988/second round/50th pick/Phoenix), Williams (1985/fourth round/89th pick/Denver) and Smith (1985/seventh round/158th pick/Denver).
All-conference selections (5): Kerr (1985-86 and 1987-88), Williams (1983-84 and 1984-85) and Smith (1984-85).
Conference players of the year: None.
All-Americans: None.
Three years later (1985-86): The UA finishes 23-9 and wins its first Pac-10 title with Kerr as a captain.
Rating: 3 stars out 5. Comment: Amazing — Olson’s first class and Snowden’s first class are the top two classes at this point of this series.

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Recruits.83

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This list will grow in the series until it reaches 20 classes and will include only the Top 20 classes (AllSportsTucson.com graphic)

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Star ratings of Arizona’s top recruits since 1972. Players with at least three stars only listed. Stars based on performance at Arizona (AllSportsTucson.com graphic)

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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