Arizona Basketball

New Arizona hoops commit Ira Lee: ‘Pure energy’

Ira Lee (photo via YouTube screenshot)

Ira Lee (photo via YouTube screenshot)

Arizona’s Sean Miller can recruit the five-star recruits, the one-and-dones.

But the thing about the Wildcats coach is that he doesn’t take a fantasy-team approach to roster construction.

He’ll end up signing a guy like 7-footer DeAndre Ayton — the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the 2017 class — but he’s also mixing in experienced transfers and highly-rated prospects who will be around for three or four years.

Arizona’s newest committed player fits into the last category.

Power forward Ira Lee, a four-star recruit from Crossroads School in Los Angeles, said yes to the Wildcats on Thursday, ending long speculation that he would indeed be coming to Arizona.

In terms of team-building, Miller is adding a specific piece: A high-energy rebounder who will know his role.

“When we talk about him, the first thing is energy,” said Matt Moreno, who runs goazcats.com on the Rivals network and has seen Lee extensively on the travel ball circuit.

“I said this over the summer — the combination of him and Alex Barcello, with the energy they bring, is going to be something different that I don’t know if we have seen under Sean Miller at Arizona. Just the energy. Pure energy. That’s what Ira Lee is.”

Lee, 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, is rated the nation’s No. 58 prospect in the 2017 class by the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Lee joins Ayton, shooting guard Brandon Randolph (No. 38) and Barcello, a point guard from Tempe Corona del Sol, who is rated at No. 80.

Lee, who was born in Glendale, Ariz., and lived there until he was 12, picked the Cats over Cal and Oregon.

“Coach Miller is a player’s coach,” Lee told our Javier Morales this summer. “It’s simple. If you play hard, if you play defense and do what you got to do, you’re going to play.

“And they offered me as a freshman so they’ve been pitching the same thing since then: ‘We want you to be like our Solomon Hill, Derrick Williams, Aaron Gordon.’ Those type of guys. That’s what they truly believe I can be like at the next level.”

Wrote ESPN:

“Lee’s productivity and potential is based on his athleticism, high motor, toughness and assertiveness. If he develops his skill set and extends his game away from the basket, his game will go to a whole new level.”

Lee is an easy fit at power forward, although the Arizona frontcourt could be crowded in the 2017-18 season, depending on who leaves early. He might have had more potential early opportunity at another school, but Lee and Miller clearly see a longer-term plan that works.

“It’s probably going to take some time with him,” Moreno said. “I could see him potentially playing in that first year and having a decent role. But, with him, it’s more of a long-term role. He’s one of those pieces that fits at Arizona, but not necessarily in a one-and-done way. They can build around him.”

As Lee continues to expand his game, he could also fit at the small forward in big lineups. But that kind of talk is for down the road.

Right now, all you can say is that Miller is at it again, having a four-man class that is rated No. 1 by 247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.

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