Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats coach Miller among college basketball’s elite in attracting 5-star talent



Source: *-Verbal commitments, not yet signed. NT-National titles.
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Sean Miller might attract five 5-star recruits this year

Sean Miller might attract five 5-star recruits this year

John Calipari’s player factory at Kentucky attracts multiple 5-star recruits annually. Mike Krzyzewski’s name, image and background accounts for Duke having the second-most of the highest rated prospects in the country since 2009.

That year — 2009 — was the year Sean Miller was hired at Arizona. Only 40 at the time of his hire, and without a 5-star recruit in five years at Xavier, Miller had not proven himself as a top-notch recruiter.

Place a check mark next to that objective.

With the verbal commitment of Class of 2015 Las Vegas (Nev.) High School small forward Rekwon “Ray” Smith on Sunday, Miller has now attracted nine 5-star recruits in seven recruiting seasons. Another 5-star talent, combo guard Justin Simon of Temecula Valley, Calif.), verbally committed in May.


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Arizona’s nine 5-star recruits rank only behind Kentucky’s phenomenal 22 and Duke’s 14 since former athletic director Jim Livengood managed to hire Miller late in the process in 2009.

Miller and his staff are not done yet. They might sign as many as three more 5-star recruits come November. The potential five in one year will be the most for Arizona in one class since tabulated recruiting classes in 2002. Miller attracted three 5-star players in 2012 (Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett).

Source: *-Never attended Arizona. **-Lute Olson on leave of absence. ***-Verbal commitments, not yet signed
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The year 2002 is substantial because that is the year after Arizona’s last appearance in a Final Four in 2001. Since 2002, Lute Olson and Miller attracted 14 5-star recruits through last year’s Class of 2013. About 30.4 percent of Arizona’s 46 recruits in that span (2002-2013) were 5-star talents. Approximately 73.9 percent of the recruits (34) were either a 5-star or 4-star player as rated by

Despite these percentages, Arizona has not made a return trip to the Final Four. Miller has knocked on the door twice (2011 and 2014) in his first six years in Tucson with two close losses in the Elite Eight. With his increasing array of 5-star talent, it appears that Miller is about to kick the door down.

The combination of Smith and Simon on the perimeter is the type of talent that can get Miller to that promised land. Smith’s aggressive style of play at 6’8″ and 185 pounds should fill the potential void left by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (a 5-star recruit in 2013) if Hollis-Jefferson enters the NBA draft next year.


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“Smith first showed up on the major AAU scene last summer and everything about him screamed potential,” West Coast recruiting analyst Josh Gershon writes about Smith. “Over the last year, as he’s grown and gotten stronger, his stock and production have increased significantly.

“The improvement from Smith has almost been on a month to month basis for the last year, and he is still just scratching the surface of his significant potential. Smith has a terrific frame, length, size and athleticism for a player at his position and age. He plays hard, rebounds on both sides of the court, gets to the basket and finishes above the rim.”

Smith recently suffered a torn ACL in his left knee which will prevent him from playing the remainder of the summer AAU circuit and probably all of his senior season at Las Vegas.

The injury, while limiting Smith’s time on the basketball court, is not a significant concern for Miller and his staff. Players have a history of returning strong from torn ACLs.

Sean Elliott partially tore his ACL when he was 14, and without surgery, went on to have a stellar career at Cholla High School, Arizona and the NBA. Steve Kerr suffered a torn ACL and MCL in 1986. He went on to complete one of the most storied Arizona careers and played 15 seasons in the NBA, winning five world titles.

Smith’s injury also reduces the possibility other programs scouting and contacting him despite his commitment to Arizona. Verbal commitments are non-binding until a recruit signs during the early period in November.

According to, the remaining 5-star targets for Miller and his staff include post players Ivan Rabb of Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O’Dowd and Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.

Isaiah Briscoe, a point guard from Roselle (N.J.) Catholic, is a 5-star talent who has Arizona among his eight finalists.

Other 5-star possibilities for Miller and his staff include power forward Carlton Bragg of Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph and shooting guard Allonzo Trier of Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep. 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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