- Last season was an off year for Arizona both on the court and on the recruiting trail, but the Wildcats are set up much differently for 2019–20.
In continuing our annual summer theme of getting you acquainted with the next crop of young, skilled players that will arrive to college basketball, we're taking a closer look at the Top 10 incoming recruiting classes (per the 247Sports composite) in the country. These schools range from the usual faces (Duke, Kentucky) to fresh ones (Memphis, Washington, Georgia), but they all have one big thing in common: there's plenty of major talent arriving. Five-stars get the headline, but a truly great recruiting class often has depth as well—players who can be program-changers over three or four years, not just one or two. Without further ado, let's move to the next top-10 class: the Arizona Wildcats.
Four-Stars: Zeke Nnaji (No. 38)
Three-Stars: Christian Koloko (No. 186)
Other New Additions: Stone Gettings (mid-year transfer from Cornell), Max Hazzard (UC Irvine), Jemarl Baker (Kentucky, will sit one) and Jordan Brown (Nevada, also not yet eligible).
How the Class Was Built
Fall 2018: Five-star Nico Mannion was the first commit in Miller’s 2019 class, verbally committing to the Wildcats in September. The top-ranked player in the state of Arizona, his pledge was huge for the program, especially in light of the recruiting mess that almost swallowed Miller up entirely. Mannion picked Arizona over Marquette, having also previously considered Duke and Villanova among other offers. Three-star center Christian Koloko then committed in September, before a second five-star recruit, Josh Green, joined the group in October. A native of Australia whose family now lives in Phoenix, Green chose the Wildcats over North Carolina.
Winter 2018–19: Four-star forward Zeke Nnaji added his name to Arizona’s tally in November. The 6’11” youngster also chose the Wildcats over the Tar Heels and had also considered offers from Baylor, UCLA, Kansas and Purdue. Four-star wing Terry Armstrong committed to Miller’s crew the same month, but then decommitted this June when he opted to bypass NCAA basketball and play professionally overseas instead.
How It Stacks Up to 2018 and Recent History
To put it bluntly, Arizona recruiting had been a bit of a dumpster fire. Former five-star Jahvon Quinerly had originally committed to the Wildcats but decommitted from the program in 2017 amid the FBI's investigation into college basketball corruption. He was recruited to the school by assistant Emanuel "Book" Richardson, one of the four coaches from various schools arrested in the investigation. Quinerly then committed to Villanova but left the program after his freshman season to transfer to Alabama. His own all-over-the-place college basketball career aside, the waters got murky for recruits committing to Arizona after Richardson’s indictment implicated the program in some shady business. After salvaging multiple decommitments last spring, the incoming 2018 Wildcats slid to a No. 22 ranking as a recruiting class, just the third crew to fall outside the top-10 during Miller’s decade-long tenure in Tuscon. Prior to last recruiting cycle, the Wildcats had landed six top-10 classes in a seven-season span and seven of the same caliber in the last nine years.
This year’s crew brings more players on board and bumped Arizona back up to Miller’s previous standards when it comes to rankings despite coaching and sanction uncertainty potentially looming. The Wildcats still managed to land their first pair of five-star recruits since Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons in 2016. Deandre Ayton was the last solo five-star player in a class when he headlined Arizona’s 2017 squad. Quinerly’s commitment left 2018 without any five-stars, but this cycle seems to have seen a reversal of fortune.
Both Mannion and Green are likely lottery picks come the 2020 NBA draft, which means a one-and-done season is in store barring any unforeseen circumstances. Nnaji and Koloko, however, should stick around for more of Arizona’s future. The newcomers will need to contribute off the bat given that the team’s No. 1 scorer, Brandon Randolph, is no longer around and No. 2 Brandon Williams is out for the season with a knee injury. Starting point guard Justin Coleman also graduated, as did big man Ryan Luther. There are definitely holes to fill on the floor in light of the losses, but expectations are high for what Mannion will bring to the backcourt and Green to the wing alongside senior Dylan Smith. While immediate starters minutes are expected for the class’s headliners, Arizona’s other two freshmen will likely see the floor in reserve roles but should still see time in Year 1.
Team Expectations for 2019-20
Sean Miller is sticking around and brings in a stacked recruiting class that sets the Wildcats up for a bounce-back season in a wide-open Pac-12. Mannion is one of the best incoming recruits in the country and has a well-rounded weapon at his disposal in Green. Hazzard and Gettings give Arizona additional scoring, which they need, and Chase Jeter is back as a solid veteran post presence. With four incoming freshmen, two available grad transfers and a decent amount of returning talent, there are a lot of new pieces for Arizona to incorporate, but the 'Cats should have enough talent to bring them back to prominence.
The Wildcats already locked down four-star small forward Dalen Terry this summer, which started off the 2020 class on a good foot. Arizona is also high on five-star wing Ziaire Williams’s list which looks promising, especially after Jalen Johnson chose Duke. There aren’t too many big men who look likely to wind up in Tuscon in 2020, but it’s still decently early in the cycle so the tides could turn on one or two. Arizona hasn’t yet offered a five-star power forward or center, targeting mostly four-stars instead. Top point guard target Daishen Nix committed to UCLA, knocking one anticipated replacement for Mannion out of contention and leaving five-star Caleb Love as the likely 2020 substitute. The Wildcats also offered five-star combo guards Jalen Green, Nimari Burnett and DJ Steward, although none like Arizona leans right now. How things shake out for the school in terms of NCAA sanctions or FBI implications could still play a role in recruiting moving forward, which may mean some coveted prospects will proceed with caution.