University of Arizona men's basketball head Sean Miller held a virtual press conference on Tuesday in what was his first media availability since March.
The Wildcats looked to have finalized next season’s roster after the commitments of Lithuanian stars Azuolas and Tautvilas Tubelis last Saturday. Arizona made a huge splash in the international recruiting pool this year, signing six overseas players to next years’ recruiting class. Miller credited that success to associate head coach Jack Murphy.
“[Murphy] has the passion to recruit international,” Miller told the Arizona Wildcats’ media. “He has the contacts and I think the know-how. We set out as far back as a couple of years to mix [international recruiting] in and make it a part of what we do.”
Here some takeaways from the rest of the press conference.
Miller remains optimistic about Brandon Williams’ future
The status of Williams’s future at Arizona had seemed to be sealed after the Wildcats raked in two more recruits last weekend, putting them one over the maximum number of scholarships an NCAA team can have at 12. While that might have seemed like the final piece to Williams’ departure, Miller confirmed that his situation is still up in the air.
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“His status hasn’t changed,” he said. “He’s still on full scholarship. He’s finishing up the spring semester, as a matter of fact, he’s in a summer class right now.”
Williams has had an inconsistent campaign at Arizona, battling multiple injuries that have kept him off the court for the majority of his career. Williams underwent season-ending knee surgery at the beginning of last season and had his rehabilitation cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Miller continued to stress how important it is to get Williams back on campus to finish “the last 25%” of his rehabilitation.
“We need to be able to get him back whenever we get clearance so that he can finish a very crucial part [of his rehab,]” Miller said. “Not until we cross that will he completely feel comfortable on when, if and how that’s going to work on getting back onto the court. So that’s why it’s somewhat ambiguous. It’s nothing that we’re trying to hide.”
The eligibility status of James Akinjo is still “a work in progress”
It’s been obvious that Miller and the rest of the coaching staff have been worried about the possibility of Akinjo playing next season. Despite what might have seemed like a roster with enough guards in its backcourt, Arizona continued to recruit more ball-handlers to the team in case Akinjo is unable to suit up.
“We have no expectations,” Miller said. “I think the summer will put [Akinjo] in a place that he deserves to be in. We’re looking forward to him being a big part of our team. Obviously, when that starting point will begin, we don’t have control over it. And that decision has not been made. I don’t think we will completely know until the beginning of the new school year in the fall semester.”
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Akinjo transferred from Georgetown University in January and has since been attempting to receive a waiver from the NCAA to play in 2021. When asked about his eligibility status, Miller described it as “a work in progress.”
“We’re in conversations with the NCAA, as I think a lot of college basketball programs are,” Miller added. “It’s a work in progress.”
Miller is excited about this year’s recruiting class
College coaches often times recruit certain players with the intention of filling the voids leftover from its past players. For Miller, he is tasked with the challenge of replacing his freshman star, Zeke Nnaji, who provided much-needed size and rebounding to the team last year. Miller has no concerns about finding that replacement as he feels freshman Azuolas Tubelis can potentially fill those shoes.
“I think he gives us a lot of the same things that we came to love about [Nnaji],” Miller said. “He’s a forward that’s versatile, very physical, can impact the game around the basket, but also is adept away from the rim, maybe even a little bit more so than [Nnaji].”
Miller continued his praise towards the incoming class by acknowledging the experience that the overseas recruits have built up over their careers.
“The one thing about all of our guys that are that are coming in from the international game, they’ve been battle-tested,” Miller said. “They played for their country. They played against some great competition in Europe. They’ve traveled to the United States and I think they have a good feel for the game so they’re not going to be a deer in headlights when it comes to college basketball."
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