Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats hoops countdown slideshow: We’re at 25 days and counting to tipoff


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With high-level power forward prospect Lauri Markkanen committing to Arizona over the weekend, what does that mean about Mitch Lightfoot’s decision given the players share a similar position?

Markkanen, a Finnish product who is 6’11” and 225 pounds, is the first player in the Class of 2016 to commit to Sean Miller’s program since five-star T.J. Leaf surprisingly decommitted in early August.

Lightfoot, 6’8″ and 210 pounds, is scheduled to announce his decision this Saturday at the Arizona Preps Fall Showcase. He is deciding between Arizona, Kansas, Stanford, Utah and St. John’s.

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A couple of important factors exist that makes Markkanen’s commitment obsolete in terms of how it affects Lightfoot’s decision.

— Judging from their sizes, Markkanen and Lightfoot can occupy the frontcourt at the same time or both get extended minutes similar to how Miller will use Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen this season. Arizona can go big next year with a frontcourt of Dusan Ristic, Markkanen and Lightfoot.

— Lightfoot told me in late July that Miller and assistant Joe Pasternack have communicated to him that playing on the wing is a viable opportunity, which further qualifies the logic to sign both him and Markkanen.

“They see me from a mixture of Aaron Gordon to Brandon Ashley to Grant Jerrett,” Lightfoot said about Miller and Pasternack. “I can handle the ball, push the ball up the court, make good passes. Definitely with their expertise, I can continue to develop and maybe even become a 3 (small forward).”

Lightfoot’s decision to remain in the state is important to an Arizona program that has attracted some of the state’s best talent over the years including Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, Jerryd Bayless and Nick Johnson (went to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., after a freshman season in Gilbert).

With Sabino grad Matt Korcheck exhausting his eligibility last season, no players from Arizona are on this year’s roster. Miller can change that next season by signing Lightfoot.

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Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:
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