Posted: 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, July 17, 2013
By Avinash Kunnath
1. How is Arizona's current recruiting class looking? Does it fill all the needs the team's been looking for?
Arizona's 2013 recruiting class is finalized and consists of McDonald's All-Americans Aaron Gordon and Rondae Jefferson, as well as Elliott Pitts, a four star shooting guard out of the Bay Area. With the departures of Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom, Sean Miller was in need of a few guys who could immediately come in and provide adequate play at the small forward and power forward positions. Gordon and Jefferson should be able to fulfill that hole -- and then some.
Gordon is a consistent jump shot away from being a superstar level talent, as his athleticism and size are worthy of endless superlatives. Meanwhile, Jefferson is the ideal fit for Miller's program: a guy who puts defense ahead of anything else and has an unceasing quench to win. As for Pitts, his impact on the program will be seen more in the future than this coming year, as there is simply too much talent ahead of him to receive much playing time.
2. What do you think of the decision of Grant Jerrett to turn pro early? Wise, unwise, or what?
Grant Jerrett's decision to turn created an epicenter in Tucson that sent shockwaves across the country, and for good reason. While his range from outside sets him apart from other big men entering the draft, he lacks the size and aggressiveness to bang in the paint. If he had stayed another year (or two) in college, he would have had time to polish up his inside game whereas now, he will be thrown into the gauntlet. It seems that Jerrett and those around him made the decision thinking more about his first pay check than his salary five years down the road.
3. How would you grade Sean Miller's coaching performance this season? Did he overachieve, underacheive, or do just what he needed to do?
In one sense, Miller got his players to peak at the right time and came oh so close to making an improbable Elite Eight appearance as a six seed. But fair or not, the expectations were increased tremendously when the Cats won the Diamondhead Classic and entered Pac-12 play with an unblemished 14-0 record. Few could have predicted on New Years that Arizona would lose six times in conference play and go 0-3 against UCLA.
Miller was given top 10 level talent yet rarely got his guys to play like a top 25 team. Despite the close loss to Ohio State in the Sweet 16, he gets a B.
4. What are your thoughts on Aaron Gordon? Is he that big a gamechanger for Arizona hoops?
If Arizona fans think Gordon is going to be the type of player who can single-handedly lead his team to the national title, a la Carmelo Anthony at Syracuse, they are probably mistaken. Fortunately for the Wildcat faithful, Gordon will have one heckuva supporting cast, including the absurdly athletic Nick Johnson along with point guard TJ McConnell, a transfer from Duquesne who had to sit out a year because of eligibility rules. Even after factoring in Jerrett's unforeseen departure, Gordon was the missing puzzle piece to what should be a Final Four contender next season.
While Gordon is a highlight reel in the making any time he touches the ball on offense, he is much more than a fantastic dunker. He averaged nearly 16 rebounds a game in his final year of high school and is a formidable shot blocker as well. Gordon needs to improve on his jumper and post play but anytime he is in the open court, he is nearly unstoppable. It has been heavily speculated what position he will primarily play in college but regardless, he should be the x-factor that takes Arizona from good or great to elite.
Despite what Miller and the players will say to the press come October and November, the preseason expectations at Arizona will be Final Four or bust. Some fans might even consider anything less than a national championship a failure. With McConnell and Johnson in the backcourt and Gordon, Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, and Kaleb Tarczewski among others in the paint, the Wildcats will have talent to match just about any team in the country.
Arizona fans know as well as anyone that winning six neutral court games in March and early April is among the toughest accomplishments in sports. So many things have to go perfect at just the right time. But a year from now, if there is not at the very least a fifth Final Four banner hanging down from the McKale Center rafters, the 2013-2014 Wildcats did not meet expectations.