Arizona Basketball: Strengths and Weaknesses of 'Cats' 2013 Recruiting Class
The reason for the drop off is the number of recruits. Sean Miller has only signed two players. And while the number has dropped, the quality of players has not fallen off, as both are in the ESPN Top 100.
With the implications of these players on the upcoming season in mind, the strengths and weaknesses of the 2013 recruiting class are examined in this article.
Sean Miller continues to bring 5-star talent to Tucson with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Hollis-Jefferson is the fifth-best small forward and the 16th overall player in the 2013 class. The 6'7" wing will be playing in both the McDonald's All-American Game and the Jordan Classic.
There is a lot to like about Hollis-Jefferson. He is big for his position at 6'7'' and has a 7'0'' wingspan. With that length, he is a tenacious defender who plays with great anticipation and a very high motor.
He can defend several different positions, and as he builds his strength in Arizona's weight-training program, he might be able to play all five slots. Because of his defensive prowess, he is a quintessential Sean Miller guy.
On the offensive end, he does a bit of everything. He looks most comfortable mid-range but can knock down the three as well as post up some. He can handle the ball well, and is a good passer and a great athlete. He is very similar to Solomon Hill in that he will be able to play so many roles on the offensive end.
This play, which ended up as SportsCenter's No. 2 on the top 10 plays list, shows off some of his skills.
Jefferson's strongest attribute may be his ability to win. In Pennsylvania's ultra-competetive AAAA, Jefferson has won two straight state championships, including a 32-0 campaign last season. This season, his team is 20-3 and is ranked 21st in the nation. He just knows what it takes to get victories.
His weaknesses are pretty much all things that will improve as he matures. He is not a consistent shooter. This has a lot to do with his shot mechanics, which aren't perfect at this point.
He also has a thin build at this stage, but Miller's staff does an incredible job with creating a solid frame. And lastly, he is very left hand-dominant in both getting to the basket and finishing at the rim.
Overall, there are not many holes in Jefferson's game and he is a huge get for Miller and the Wildcats.
Elliott Pitts, SG
Elliott Pitts is currently the 100th-rated player in ESPN's recruiting rankings. He is a 6'5'' shooting guard who received offers from schools like California, Georgetown, Virginia and Washington. He chose Arizona in August 2012.
What most scouts say about Pitts is that he has great court awareness and intelligence. He has a savvy about him that makes him intriguing for a guy ranked only at No. 100.
Pitts has good size, at 6'5", for the shooting guard position. He is a consistent shooter from all distances on the court and is able to create his own shot. He has a quick, compact release on his jumper which is pretty to watch.
Pitts is not a great athlete. He does not jump off the page in any fashion, which is probably why he is not ranked higher.
Pitts' strength needs to be improved, as this is the case with most high school kids. And while his shooting is good, it has a long way to go before it is great.
Although not ranked very high, Pitts is a very good pick up for Arizona.
Arizona's class is still a work in progress. There is still one player who could move Arizona to the top five in the overall rankings: Aaron Gordon. The California man-child is a legit superstar right now.
There are some guys you watch and can tell immediately, just by watching them a few minutes, that they are going to be stars on the next level. Aaron Gordon is one of these guys.
His power, explosion and supreme athleticism are a cut above nearly everyone else at the high school level. Gordon is currently the fourth-rated player in the nation and should probably be at least one slot higher (there is no way Julius Randle is better than Gordon).
So where is Gordon with his decision-making process? Well, he hasn't talked about it for a while, but he has narrowed his list to three schools: Arizona, Washington and Kentucky.
Gordon has consistently said that he values style of play, location, his ability to improve and his ability to win a championship. With Kentucky's location across the country, as well as its six-man recruiting class, those Wildcats are not in the mix.
Washington seems to be on the inside track, but Lorenzo Romar and company 1) have not shown an ability to improve their players, and 2) are light years away from a title. Arizona, on the other hand, fits all Gordon's criteria.
In the end, despite the fact Arizona would be a better fit for him, I think Gordon chooses Washington because of the relationship Romar has with Gordon's dad. If not, and he comes to Arizona, the Wildcats must be a favorite to win the 2014 national title.
The Class Overall
The true test of a recruiting class is not how many 5-star players were acquired, but how those players fit into the program. The Arizona class is small but good. It is good because it fits well with the Wildcats who will be returning for 2013-14. With that said, this class has both an upside and a downside.
The biggest strength of this class is the way it fits with next year's team. There will only be one hole in the starting lineup, where Solomon Hill left it. This is what the starting lineup will look like:
PG: T.J. McConnell
SG: Nick Johnson
SF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
PF: Brandon Ashley/Grant Jerrett
C: Kaleb Tarczewski
If that's not a preseason No. 1 team, I don't know what is. And it will be in large part because Hollis-Jefferson is so good. He will fill Solomon Hill's shoes well. He is very skilled guy who can do just about everything on the basketball court, both offensively and defensively. His ability to step right into the small forward spot is going to be vital for the Wildcats.
An additional strength is that this class adds some shooting and guard play deep on the bench. While it may be hard for Pitts to find time, he will be an asset when called upon.
One weak spot for this class is that it is not deep; right now only, it consists of only two players. But it does not need to be huge because Arizona is so stacked with talent at this point. Currently, there are seven solid returning players. To add too many more would not be productive.
Another weakness for Arizona is the lack of a backup point. Jordin Mayes has been very inconsistent and has regressed from his sophomore to junior seasons. A backup point to T.J. McConnell would be nice, but isn't a necessity.
One more big hole for the Wildcats will be the lack of sharpshooters. While many Cats are good shooters—around 40 percent—not many are dead-eye and consistent. Further, three of Arizona's best shooters will be graduating. Shooting from deep next season will be something the Wildcats will struggle with.
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