Wildcat Hoops

Arizona to take on Missouri in 2014 Maui Invitational opener

Around Thanksgiving, Hawaii will be Wildcat country. It was announced earlier this week that the Arizona men’s basketball team would open the 2014 Maui Invitational against Missouri at 3 p.m. MST on Nov. 24. The victor of the contest will go on to face either Purdue or Kansas State on Nov 25 at 5:30 p.m., with the championship game occurring Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. All contests will be broadcast among the ESPN family of networks. Maui Invitational chairman Dave Odom praised the Wildcats, saying they are a ‘very skilled’ team with a great young coach who understands the value of a preseason tournament like the invitational. “The fact is that Arizona comes in as the marquee entry this year, there’s no question about that,” said Odom, the former coach at Wake Forest and South Carolina. “They accomplished so much last year and were it not for an injury, they’d have a chance to go another round or two. When you look at the field going into the season they’re going to be top-five, or one two or three. They’ve got veteran players coming back.

Latest five-star commitment brings national recognition for Miller, Wildcats

Shortly after five-star recruit Allonzo Trier committed to Arizona over the weekend, talks began to surface of a No. 1 2015 recruiting class for Sean Miller.

Trier, the No. 19 ranked recruit in the nation according to ESPN, joins guard Justin Simon and forward Ray Smith as commits in Miller's 2015 class.

Arizona's 2014 recruiting class was ranked seventh overall by ESPN and included No. 7 overall recruit Stanley Johnson.

After securing Trier, at the very least, Miller has locked up a fifth consecutive top-10 recruiting class.

UA sets date for McDonald's Red-Blue game

On Tuesday the UA announced that the annual men’s basketball McDonald’s Red-Blue Game will be held on Saturday Oct. 18 at McKale Center.

While the scrimmage was sold out last year, the UA expects capacity to be about 10,000 due to the McKale’s renovation project. The event’s time has not yet been determined.

Online ticket sales will begin at 10 a.m. MST on Aug. 30 on arizonawildcats.com. Advance ticket prices are $10 for adults and $7 for youth, admission for the ZonaZoo is free and tickets for groups of 25 or more are $5 a piece.

Arizona football has a bye that week.

More details on how the renovation project will affect the Red-Blue Game will be announced in the coming weeks.

Arizona men's basketball unveils nonconference schedule

The Arizona men’s basketball team released its nonconference schedule for the 2014-15 season on Monday.

The season begins on Nov. 9 against Cal Poly Pomona and continues with some familiar competitive opponents. It also has the Wildcats traveling to Maui, Hawaii, for the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

“The purpose of this nonconference schedule is to prepare us for the Pac-12 Conference season and position us with numerous opportunities to play quality opponents that will be looked upon favorably in March,” said Arizona head basketball coach Sean Miller in a press release.

The opponents that stand out on Arizona’s nonconference schedule include home games against Gonzaga (Dec. 6) and Michigan (Dec. 13). Besides the Maui Invitational (Nov. 24-Nov 26), Arizona’s only road nonconference games are at UTEP (Dec. 19) and at UNLV (Dec. 23). They are the two final nonconference games before the Pac-12 Conference schedule begins.

Last season, the Wildcats defeated UNLV 63-58 at home on Dec. 7 and also beat Michigan 72-70 on Dec. 14 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Arizona also topped Gonzaga 84-61 in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament this past season.

As for the Maui Invitational, this is the Wildcats’ sixth appearance in the Thanksgiving tournament — tied with North Carolina for the most appearances. The Wildcats won the Maui Invitational in 1993, 1997 and in 2000.

It’s unsure yet with whom Arizona will open the invitational against or how the bracket will look, but the field is set. Also making the trip to the 50th state is BYU, Kansas State, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Purdue and San Diego State. The host school is Chaminade.

The Wildcats defeated San Diego State 70-64 last season in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Former Wildcat Angelo Chol transferred to SDSU following the 2011-12 season, but because of the NCAA transfer rules, Chol was unable to play this past season.

Prior to the Maui Invitational, Arizona will also play Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 14), Cal State Northridge (Nov. 16) and UC Irvine (Nov. 19) in McKale Center. They have home games scheduled against Gardner-Webb (Dec. 2), Utah Valley (Dec. 9) and Oakland (Dec. 16).

“Our players and staff are ready to work hard this summer to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead,” Miller said.

—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella

Arizona receives another 2015 commitment

Scout.com announced Tuesday that Temecula Valley High School (Calif.) junior guard Justin Simon committed to Arizona for 2015.

Simon, who is rated four-star on ESPN.com is a 6-foot-5 185-pound combo guard that has also received offers from ASU, Florida, UCLA and Kansas to name a few.

Simon is the Wildcats’ second commitment for the 2015 season. He joins fellow Southern California guard Tyler Dorsey to commit to Arizona.

Despite his taller height, Simon could potentially fill in as point guard when current Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell graduates after next season. He is considered one of the most versatile guards in the 2015 class.

Follow Luke Della @LukeDella

Stanley Johnson invited to U18 National Team training camp

On Monday, USA Basketball announced that future Arizona men’s basketball player Stanley Johnson is invited to the Men’s U18 National Team training camp.

Johnson is among the 12 athletes with prior USA basketball experience to be invited and one of three who have won gold medals. The camp will be held June 10-19 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and 21 players will try out.

The final, 12-member team will compete in the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Colorado Springs, Colo., from June 20-24. The tournament will feature Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the U.S. and Uruguay.

The top four teams will qualify for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men. The competition is for athletes born on or after Jan. 1, 1996.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim chaired the selection committee.

“I’m very excited about going through this process again,” said Billy Donovan, USA U18 National Team and University of Florida head coach. “I see a lot of talent in this group, similar to the past couple of summers, and I’m looking forward to coaching them.”

Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow are the other two gold medalists invited. Former Wildcat Aaron Gordon won MVP honors last summer as the U.S. won the gold medal at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague.

“Having players with USA Basketball experience certainly helps, and I know these guys will be ready to compete,” Donovan said. “Our challenge once again will be to learn to function as a team and try to reach our potential in a short amount of time.”

—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520

Women's hoops adds a couple transfers

The Arizona women’s basketball team announced on Tuesday that the program has added two more players to an already highly-touted 2014-15 recruiting class.

Transfers Malena Washington and Lauren Evans join a group headlined by Taryn Griffey, who is the sister of Arizona wide receiver Trey Griffey and the daughter of former MLB star Ken Griffey Jr.

Washington transfers from Tyler Junior College and the 5-foot-7 guard will be eligible to play immediately.

“Malena [Washington] will make an offensive impact for us,” Arizona head coach Niya Butts said in a press release. “Offensively, there isn’t much she isn’t capable of. She is a great scorer, mid-range shooter and passer.”

Evans transfers to Arizona from Virginia Tech and will have to sit out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA eligibility rules. Evans is a Chandler, Ariz. native and averaged 4.7 points per game and 2.1 rebounds per game in her freshman season at Virginia Tech.

“Lauren [Evans] is an Arizona kid and we always want to get the best in the state,” Butts said in a press release. “Having her at Arizona certainly allows us to do that. The opportunity to bring her back home will be great for her and for our program. She will be a great addition for us, on and off the court.”

The two additions should help boost an Arizona team that went 5-25 overall and 1-17 in conference matchups in the 2013-14 season.

—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555

Nick Johnson named second team All-American by AP

On Monday, the Associated Press announced that Arizona junior Nick Johnson was named second team All-American.

Johnson was the leading vote-getter on the AP All-American second team. He has earned three first-team All-American honors, by the Sporting News, the NABC and the USBWA, and one-second team award.

The Pac-12 Player of the Year led Arizona in scoring (16.3) and ranked second on the team in assists (2.8) and steals (1.1).

Johnson has been named first-team All-Pac-12, to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team, USBWA District IX Player of the Year and first-team USBWA All-District 20.

He was also named Most Outstanding Player at the NIT Season Tip-Off, to the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team, and has been a finalist for the Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy and Robertson Trophy.

—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520

Nick Johnson a finalist for player of the year

SAN DIEGO — Arizona Wildcats junior guard Nick Johnson was named to the final four of the 2014 Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year award on Sunday.

Johnson joins Creighton’s forward Doug McDermott, Duke’s forward Jabari Parker and Louisville’s guard Russ Smith on the final list.

Along with leading the Wildcats to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Johnson averages 16.3 points per game and makes 44.4 percent of his shots from the field. He has already been named to the Sporting News and USBWA first-team All-American list.

Parker’s No. 3-seeded Duke team were upset by No. 14-seeded Mercer in the first round of the tournament. Parker, a freshman, averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

McDermott is finishing up his college career as one of the greatest scorers in college basketball history. As of Saturday, he ranked fifth in the all-time NCAA basketball-scoring list with 3,135 points scored. He is 30 points behind former Mississippi Valley State guard Alphonso Ford for fourth place.

McDermott’s No. 3-seeded Bluejays are still in the tournament as of Sunday afternoon. He is averaging 27 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Louisville senior guard Smith is averaging 18.1 points and 4.7 assists per game. His No. 4-seeded Cardinals have reached the Sweet 16 and will play in-state rival Kentucky on Friday.

The winner will be announced on April 6.

— Follow Luke Della @LukeDella

Pac-12 commissioner on the one-and-done rule, Pac-12 in China

Prior to the Pac-12 tournament championship, conference commissioner Larry Scott talked to the media to discuss the pulse of the Pac.

Scott said that one of the most important topics related to college basketball on a national level is the existence of the one-and-done.

Unlike the National Football League or Major League Baseball where college players have to be 21 or done with their junior year to enter the draft collegiate basketball players are eligible to go to the NBA after just a year in an NCAA institution.

“Our feeling on the one-and-done phenomenon is very detrimental to the essential academic mission of our universities,” Scott said. “This high visibility trend of one-and-done threatens to undermine the twin goals of academic as well as athletic excellence at our colleges.”

Scott announced that Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson would lead the first ever Pac-12 men’s basketball All-Star team to China. The conference All-Stars will play against two professional Chinese teams. According to Scott, the All-Star team would be comprised of representatives from each of the league’s 12 teams.

Scott additionally proclaimed that the conference has finalized plans to stage the first-ever regular season men’s basketball game in China.

Washington will play Texas on Nov. 14 2015 in China live on ESPN, Scott said.

—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17