- Adam Finkelstein
At this time last week, Arizona had two early verbal commitments in the Class of 2015 and two graduating seniors whose scholarships would need to be filled.
The Wildcats' work seemed to be done early. Except it wasn’t. Not even close.
Last weekend, ESPN 100 guard Tyler Dorsey decommitted from the Wildcats in a move that many had come to expect.
While it is debatable whether it was Dorsey or Arizona that initiated the split, what is very clear is that Dorsey wants an opportunity to develop into more of a point guard, and Arizona never stopped pursuing other high-level guards such as Allonzo Trier and Isaiah Briscoe, despite already owning verbal commitments from Dorsey and fellow ESPN 100 guard Justin Simon.
So where does Arizona go from here? Here are five burning questions that will provide answers:
1. How many prospects will they need to sign?
Much like last season, Arizona is preparing for the potential of mass defections to the NBA. T.J. McConnell and Matt Korcheck are the only graduating seniors on the roster, but Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and maybe even incoming freshman Stanley Johnson could all explore the draft. That means Arizona could have as many as six scholarships to disperse. The Wildcats have one allocated to Simon and another to Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson, who is sitting out this year before his single season of eligibility following his three-year career in the ACC. They will very clearly look to replace Dorsey’s spot in the backcourt, but it’s actually the frontcourt that is far more unpredictable, so the Wildcats are targeting a variety of immediate-impact prospects at those positions.
2. Who replaces Dorsey in the backcourt?
While they’ll lose McConnell at point guard, Arizona already has solid backcourt depth. It's expected to return sharpshooter Gabe York and incoming freshman Parker Jackson-Cartwright, and it already owns Simon’s verbal commitment in the 2015 class. Kadeem Allen and Elliott Pitts should also return, but neither provides the type of third ball handler whom Miller’s rosters typically include, nor the alpha male-type scorer or playmaker they’ve historically featured. Briscoe and Trier would fit both of those needs, and with Dorsey now out of the fold, Arizona is likely to intensify its pursuit of both. The Wildcats also are going to widen their net a little bit to ensure they’re not left empty-handed. That has already begun, as they reached out to Malik Monk and now plan to recruit him moving forward.
What do Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon, and Stanley Johnson have in common? They are all products of the Oakland Soldiers, the same AAU program that currently features the top-ranked prospect in the ESPN 100, Ivan Rabb, as well as Stephen Zimmerman, the second-ranked center and No. 6 overall prospect in the 2015 class. Arizona appears to be right in the thick of things for Rabb and also has made Zimmerman’s final list of eight. Either would provide a huge addition and help the Wildcats to secure an otherwise unpredictable frontline for next season. If their pipeline to the Soldiers can somehow land them both commitments, it would be an absolute coup and put them in a tremendous position heading into the 2015-16 season. As for the number of available scholarships, if you can get the likes of Rabb and Zimmerman, you don’t hesitate, and figure out the scholarships later on.
4. How does the first frontcourt domino fall?
Arizona is also heavily involved with Zimmerman’s high school teammate at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, Chase Jeter. The five-star power forward told Gerry Hamilton earlier this week that he is approaching a final decision and will likely choose between Duke, UNLV, UCLA and Arizona. Any of those programs would undoubtedly love to have him, but his commitment would also have ramifications on what happens with Rabb and Zimmerman. While Jeter’s presence wouldn’t discourage either player from committing to the same school, it would prevent that school from having any chance of landing both Soldiers. UCLA and UNLV were also on Zimmerman’s list of eight, while UCLA and Duke are also heavily involved with Rabb. In other words, the implications of Jeter’s decision will be felt by a variety of schools.
5. Who is the next combo forward?
Miller and his staff have made a habit of pursuing versatile forwards who can play multiple positions. That will be especially important in 2015 with the unpredictability of the frontline following this season. Their top targets in that spot appear to be Ray Smith, Bennie Boatwright and Derrick Jones. All three are long and multidimensional, and consequently have the potential to plug several gaps, depending on exactly who moves on to the NBA next season. Smith and Jones are both high-level athletes, and Boatwright might be the most skilled of the bunch. Arizona is thought to be in a position of strength with Boatwright while toward the top of Smith’s most recent 11-school list. It wasn't involved with Jones until recently, but it is making a definite push.