Arizona Basketball

5-star point guard Simmons commits to Arizona Wildcats


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Kobi Simmons says he will attend Arizona and play for Sean Miller's program (ESPN screenshot)

Kobi Simmons says he will attend Arizona and play for Sean Miller’s program (ESPN screenshot)

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Five-star point guard Kobi Simmons of Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis High School has verbally committed to attend the University of Arizona starting next season as a freshman.

Simmons, a 6’5″ and 170-pound versatile player who can also play shooting guard, made Arizona one of his three finalists earlier this week after UNLV fired its head coach Dave Rice. Simmons has officially visited UNLV and Ohio State but has yet to do so at Arizona. He most likely will take the official trip after the season is over for St. Francis.

Simmons’ commitment bears the fruits of Sean Miller’s relentless recruiting efforts, attracting a player without an official visit.

Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson and Miller never gave up on the recruitment of Simmons although the Wildcats were not always in the forefront.

“I feel like that’s where home is,” Simmons said when making the announcement of his decision to attend Arizona during halftime of ESPN’s telecast of the Hoop Hall Classic game between Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep and the Athletic Institute of Canada.

“Kobi is an elite scorer with good size and athleticism,” Scout.com analyst Brian Snow was quoted as saying this week about Simmons. “Capable of playing on or off the ball, Simmons brings versatility on both ends and when focused is one of the most productive players in the class.”

Matt Moreno, senior editor of GOAZCATS.com, told Anthony Gimino of TucsonNewsNow.com that Simmons can offer Miller and his staff the ability to play all the perimeter positions, especially point guard and shooting guard.

“Everybody has him listed as a point guard, but in the summer there were discussions that he is more of a shooting guard,” Moreno said. “He is a high-volume shooter. He does get up a lot of shots, leading people to think he’s more of a shooting guard. With that said, he can score.”

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ARIZONA WILDCATS FROM GEORGIA

Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill

If Kobi Simmons honors his commitment to Arizona and signs during the spring, he will become the first Wildcat recruit from Georgia since Jordan Hill, an Atlanta native. Hill played in high school at the Patterson School in Patterson, N.C. Another Georgia product who played at Arizona was Macon’s Morgan Taylor, who was signed by Ben Lindsey out of Middle Georgia Junior College in 1982. After sitting out Lute Olson’s first season in 1983-84 to concentrate on academics, Taylor was an important part of Olson’s first NCAA tournament team at Arizona in 1984-85. He started 12 games and averaged 8.3 points and 3 rebounds a game.

Morgan Taylor

Morgan Taylor

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Here is a look at Arizona’s 2016-17 roster with Simmons and power forward signee Laurie Markannen of Finland added and all players with remaining eligibility theoretically returning as well:

Point Guard: Kadeem Allen (Sr.), Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Jr.) and Kobi Simmons (Fr.)

Shooting Guard: Allonzo Trier (Soph.), Justin Simon (Soph.) and Elliott Pitts (Sr.)

Small Forward: Ray Smith (RFr.)

Power Forward: Laurie Markannen (Fr.)

Center: Dusan Ristic (Jr.) and Chance Comanche (Soph.)

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That is 10 of 12 scholarship spots filled. Arizona loses seniors Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen.

If none of the underclassmen transfer or enter the NBA draft after this season, that leaves two scholarships to fill.

The possibility exists that Trier and even Smith will try the NBA.

That, of course, depends on how strongly Smith responds to his rehabilitation from right knee surgery. Smith, whom NBA scouts reportedly admired during preseason workouts, will be a longshot to be drafted given he has not played the last two seasons (he sat out last year at Las Vegas High School following surgery on his left knee). Arizona is high on another 5-star talent, wing player Josh Jackson, rated the best in the Class of 2016 by many recruiting analysts.

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So it will be interesting to see how Miller and his staff can incorporate both Smith and Jackson into the rotation. That might be more of an “if” proposition than a “how”. It’s difficult to see Jackson coming to Arizona if Smith remains to play as a redshirt freshman next season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, however, because the Wildcats lack depth at small forward and power forward.

Trier led Arizona in scoring at the time of his broken right hand injury suffered last week at USC. If he returns strongly in mid-February and has a highly productive March, his name will start to appear on draft boards. Trier is listed only on DraftExpress.com’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft as the No. 33 pick overall.

None of the other six returners next season figure to leave early for the NBA.

What about a potential transfer away from the program? That’s always a possibility.

Pitts, a junior, continues to miss games for personal undisclosed reasons, but no indication exists that he is transferring. He continues to be involved with team activities. It would not be wise for him to transfer to another Division I school because he would miss half of his senior season next year.

If Arizona does not have any defections (to the NBA or elsewhere) and Simmons honors his pledge (verbal commitments are non-binding), Jackson and Australian power forward prospect Harry Froling (who officially visited during Thursday’s game with Washington), Miller’s 2016-17 roster will be overloaded with talent. That seems like a pipe dream because of potential chemistry and playing time issues.

Miller’s second unit could be picked to win some conferences. The only seniors would be Pitts and Allen. It will be another reloading project for Miller. Rebuilding is no longer in the vocabulary with Miller’s operation.

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

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