OPINION: ‘Cats with a rare miss of NBA draft success
It was a quiet NBA draft for Wildcat fans this year. With no players going in either round this year, it was a stark contrast from the year prior, when Deandre Ayton went first overall to the Phoenix Suns.
It marked the fourth time in the Sean Miller era that Arizona failed to produce an NBA draft pick.
However, do not expect that trend to carry over into next season.
Since 1988, the Wildcats have had a player drafted in the NBA 25 of those years. Only 6 years (2007, 2006, 2003, 1996, 1992 and 1990) have they only had a player selected in second round and 19 years with at least one first round pick.
That is a very impressive resume for this “basketball” school. But what about the years that they didn’t produce any NBA talent through the draft?
Looking at this past season, there are a few possible reasons as to why Arizona didn’t have a player drafted.
The first would be the commitment then de-commitment of several highly touted recruits. Shareef O’Neal, the son of legendary NBA big man Shaquille O’Neal, and two other highly regarded recruits, Jahvon Quinerly and Brandon Williams, would de-commit from the program following NCAA investigations in November of 2017.
Shareef O’Neal would eventually attend the University of Central Los Angeles, although he would miss his entire freshman season due to a serious heart condition requiring surgery, but he is expected to make a full recovery and continue to play.
Williams eventually recommitted to Arizona in May of 2018, but Quinerly attended Villanova University and recently announced he will be transferring to the University of Alabama next year.
Before the season, Arizona was not sure what their team would look like with all the de-commitments. Head Coach Sean Miller was quoted saying, “If you go back as far as March or April of last year, I think we all kind of looked at it and said, ‘We’ll see who we have.'”
The lack of talent translated over to the season. Looking at team statistics, they were near the bottom in many of the essential categories.
They hit about 42.7 percent of their field goals, which was good for 270 of 353 teams. Their two-point and three-point percentages were also near the bottom along with points per game and total team rebounds.
In their own conference, it didn’t get much better. Most stats only had them anywhere from 6 to 11 in the Pac-12. That simply will not get it done.
Star power will not be the problem heading into next season, though.
According to 24/7 sports, Arizona will be putting the No. 3 recruiting class on the court this upcoming season, with that class holding the No. 1 spot for several months.
Arizona will feature top 10 recruit Nico Mannion from Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, Ariz. Mannion is the No. 9 recruit in the country and No. 1 at the point guard position.
Not far behind Mannion is Josh Green of IMG Academy. Green is the No. 13 player in the nation and the 3rd-rated small forward in the class.
With rankings like that, as long as both players have strong, injury-free seasons, they could be heavily considered as lottery picks in next year’s draft, and it would be shocking if either fell out of the first round.
With this level of talent on the roster for next season, a deep run into the NCAA tournament will be expected of the Wildcats. With that long tournament run will come exposure for not only the top tier talents that the Wildcats will posses next year, but maybe a few others will receive the attention of NBA scouts, which could see them getting picked in the second round.
This team will go as far as its stars will take them, and that will show come draft night next June.