Column: Key week looms for Arizona basketball

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Rebecca Noble and | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona men's basketball forward Stanley Johnson (5) jogs onto the court before Arizona's 73-58 win against Ohio State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore., on March 21. Between recruiting and potential early entrants to the 2015 NBA Draft, next week will be huge for Arizona basketball.

“Arizona basketball never stops” is just a marketing slogan, but weeks after the Wildcats’ season ended, they’re still very active.

Already armed with the No. 3 recruiting class, as of Sunday, the Wildcats could soon take a huge step toward another Elite Eight with a five-star recruit deciding today, as two 2015 starters are reportedly considering returning to the UA instead of going pro, and a high profile transfer is picking a new school soon.

Ivan Rabb, a 6-foot-11, 210-pound, five-star power forward from Oakland, Calif., will choose between California, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA tonight at 7 p.m.

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Cal was thought to be the front runner, but Rabb has continued to delay his decision, which has given hope to Arizona faithfuls. Then, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, Caleb Swanigan, chose Michigan State over Cal. He and Rabb were thought to be a package deal to Cal.

In the meantime, UA signee Allonzo Trier has been recruiting Rabb.

Trier tweeted a photo of him and Rabb at practice for the Nike Hoop Summit, saying “Waiting for Ivan to BearDown with me” with red and blue circle emojis.

Arizona forward Stanley Johnson, who CBS reported is “torn” on whether to enter the draft or return for his sophomore season, Johnson declared the Wildcats would be back in the Elite Eight sooner rather than later, while players like senior point guard T.J. McConnell and forward Brandon Ashley cried during interviews after the season ended.

Johnson has kept busy, winning the inaugural Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award on Friday night.

Trier, meanwhile, missed a game-winning 3-pointer in Team USA’s 103-101 loss to the World Team in the Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday. He had 11 points and two assists.

Trier also led the West in scoring at the McDonald’s All-American game.

He could get help in the UA backcourt with one of the most coveted transfers, Damion Lee.

Lee narrowed the list down to his top five teams on Sunday in alphabetical order: Arizona, Gonzaga, Louisville, Marquette and Maryland. Lee is a shooting guard from Drexel University and averaged 21.4 points per game last season, tied for the fourth highest in Division I.

Arizona picked up Ryan Anderson, an All-ACC player at Boston College, and Kadeem Allen, 2014 JUCO Player of the Year, in the transfer market last offseason. They both appear to be in line for pivotal roles in Arizona’s rotation next season.

Anderson had to sit out this season as an undergraduate transfer, and Allen chose to redshirt — so both of them are like a part of Arizona’s 2015 recruiting class.

Lee is supposed to graduate in June, so he will be eligible to play next season, much like Mark Lyons in 2012-2013.

While the Wildcats already lost forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Ashley to the NBA Draft, the early rumors that they would lose all five 2014-2015 starters seem premature.

Multiple reports have said Kaleb Tarczewski has decided to return to school, but Tucson.com reported that a mentor of the 7-footer said he hasn’t made up his mind yet.

If the Wildcats keep Zeus and get Rabb, they will have a front court reminiscent of the Monstars from “Space Jam,” with four players over 6-foot-10 and two 7-footers.

While soccer has the “silly season” and MLB has the “hot stove,” college basketball has the drama of “the decision” played over and over after the regular season ends, and Arizona is in the thick of it.

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.


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