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Friday, October 31, 2014 | Last updated: 7:57am

2012 recruiting class goes beyond Miller’s efforts


Williams, winning among reasons for recruiting success



As the face of Arizona basketball, head coach Sean Miller has received massive praise for landing the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. Luring Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York to Tucson is no easy feat, and Miller destroyed any doubts that he couldn’t recruit across the nation.

But there’s more to Arizona’s top-ranked 2012 class than Miller’s efforts.

“Sometimes a head coach gets a lot of credit and sometimes he gets a lot of blame and that goes with the territory,” Miller said. “But recruiting is a team effort. You can work hard as a coaching staff or a head coach but you need everything to be successful.”

As of now, Arizona almost has everything. The Wildcats are back as a national program, making Miller’s sales pitch that much easier.

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“He’s recruiting players that Arizona should recruit and that Arizona is known for getting,” said former Arizona guard Miles Simon. “He’s going to tell guys do you want to be part of a winning program and a toughness mentality, and you seen an exciting style of basketball, up-tempo, play defense hard, and great facilities on top of that — I think those are easy selling points.”

Here’s why Arizona’s 2012 class goes beyond Sean Miller:

Derrick Williams

Miller made it clear that without Derrick Williams, Arizona wouldn’t have the top class in the nation. These recruits — three of them big men — saw how the unheralded recruit developed under Miller and landed in the NBA after two seasons.

After watching Williams blossom into the No. 2 overall pick and Pac-10 Player of the Year, these recruits yearned for a similar outcome when signing on the dotted line.

“I’d like to give Derrick Williams a lot of credit as well. Any time you have a kid who’s such a great kid, such an incredible player, do what he did in a two-year period of time, a lot of guys want to believe in that,” Miller said. “He certainly helped forge this recruiting class for us.”

Winning ways

After its electric Elite Eight run a season ago, Arizona basketball was officially back to where it used to be during the Lute Olson era. Aspiring college stars want to win at the highest level, and the blueprint Arizona has in place makes that a possibility.

“When you’re winning that also makes your recruiting job a little easier,” Ashley said. “All kids want to go to a school where they can go in and win and hopefully get to that next level and coach Miller provides that.”

Added Miller: “Winning solves a lot of problems and winning really helps in recruiting. Winning a Pac-10 championship a year ago and having the success we had in the tournament really gave us a lot of credibility.”

Practice facilities

The Wildcats have some of the top practice facilities in not only the conference, but the nation.

Spending $2.9 million on the new Davis Strength and Conditioning Center in Richard Jefferson Gymnasium proved to be a huge selling point for recruits looking to bulk up.

“The new practice facility, Richard Jefferson gym, is a huge impact to our recruiting,” Miller said. “The brand new weight room, which I think is the best in the country, is a significant reason why young people want to come to Arizona.

“If you look at the hallways in our locker room, that first class treatment approach that we have at Arizona — our development office has helped tremendously to allow us to be successful in recruiting.”

Recruiting Word of Mouth

While the head coach is the main recruiter, players have to recruit as well. That started when Williams, Solomon Hill and Momo Jones decommitted from USC to come to Arizona, and it has continued with Arizona’s current group of freshmen.

Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner, Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol had all known each other in some capacity before coming to Tucson. According to Miller, Nick Johnson put on his recruiter hat and played a big part in the Wildcats’ 2012 class.

“We have a lot of guys on our current team who do an incredible job when these kids come on visits,” Miller said. “Nick Johnson, he never played one game at Arizona and he was instrumental in all of these guys when they made unofficial and official visits. Players recruit players.”

Winning tradition

The foundation Olson built in Tucson goes beyond Miller. When recruits walk in and see the 1997 National Championship banner and the jerseys of Mike Bibby, Steve Kerr and Sean Elliot in the rafters, Arizona basketball sells itself.

“The tradition, the Red-Blue Game and the crowd that we had impacted our ability to recruit well,” Miller said. “All of the former players that made Arizona so special, they continue to help us with recruiting because of what they did here.”


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