It's March 7, 2011, exactly one year and 11 months from the day that Sean Miller was hired at the University of Arizona. As of today, the Wildcats boast a record of 25-6, a national ranking of 18th in the Associated Poll and Coaches Poll, and their first Pac-10 Conference title since 2005. Arizona has a top 10 recruiting class coming in next season and could do even better in 2012.
Two years ago, all of this would have been thought to be impossible. And the best news? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
Reason #5: They've Got Game
To say that Arizona's top 10 recruiting class possesses a great deal of talent would be an understatement.
The Wildcats bring in some big time names in 2011, each of whom picked Arizona over a number of top tier programs in the nation.
AAU teammates this summer, Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson are a power duo in the backcourt. The elite players have a powerful chemistry and a great bond, which will only grow stronger when the two reunite on the court in Tucson.
Ranked number three in the nation amongst point guards and number 15 overall, Turner brings quickness, strength, and toughness to the Arizona program.
"Sean Miller loves tough point guards, and that's exactly what Josiah Turner is. He's just a big time talent and a good size for his position; he can guard a one or a two," says Scout.com Basketball Recruiting Analyst, Brian Snow.
"He was the quarterback of probably the best AAU team all summer, the Oakland Soldiers. He's got a winning pedigree, he's always winning and he's one of the best players. He is going to make an instant impact at a premiere program."
Scout.com National Basketball Recruiting expert Evan Daniels agrees.
"I think from day one, Arizona is going to put the basketball in his hands and I think he's going to do some great things with it," Daniels says.
"The rest of the Pac-10 better watch out, because Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson, they're coming for em."
A standout shooting guard from Findlay Prep, Nick Johnson adds athleticism, a defensive presence and a great deal of confidence to the Arizona roster. He is going to be a crowd favorite.
"The guy can really put on some highlight reel dunks, but he's more than just that. He's a great on the ball defender; he moves his feet side to side really well and he can really lock down the opposition's best player," says Daniels.
"Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner, that's a heck of a combo… In the Pac-10, as far as recruiting goes, especially in this 2011 class, it's clear that Arizona has the premier class and I think we're going to see that on the court sooner rather than later."
Another member of Arizona's highly touted class is San Diego Hoover's Angelo Chol, who recently chose to "Bear Down" rather than play basketball at top level programs such as North Carolina or Kansas. At 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Chol is an effective rebounder and a noted shot blocker.
"I think his game really translates well to college," attests Chol's current coach, Ollie Goulston. "His upside is so big because he just works to get better; he's a winner.
"You're going to be shocked and amazed at how good he is."
Boasting great wingspan, strength, and rebounding ability, Sidiki Johnson is another tough player that rounds out Miller's 2011 class. At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, the New York native is a frontcourt player with great physical upside.
"This is a guy that Sean Miller has been targeting since the very beginning," says Snow.
"Sidiki is a power player; he can put the ball on the floor, has decent touch, and he's a great rebounder."
By bringing in two of the nation's premier guards in Turner and Nick Johnson, and two strong post prospects in Chol and Sidiki Johnson to complement them with an inside presence, the Wildcats seem to be headed for success.
"Every coach loves his recruiting class," a somewhat sarcastic Miller said.
But while no coach would publicly say he dislikes his recruiting class, Miller legitimately has plenty of reasons to be proud.
"I have great promise and hopes for these guys," he said. "I think they can contribute immediately, and I do think if things go well and they work hard, it could be a group of guys that could really have great success."
"I love watching the 2011 class. I think they're very talented," adds assistant Book Richardson.
"The classes I envisioned getting were ones that would help you win a national championship year in and year out. The climate of college basketball changes every year, but I think we got a good class."
And even more help could be on its way. Brandon Ashley and Rosco Allen are two of the elite players Arizona hopes will join its current one-man class of five-star power forward Grant Jerrett in 2012.
"The campus is great and the coaches are great," Allen said. "I just like the school and what it stands for."
Chris Thomas, who just watched the Wildcats cut down the nets on an unofficial visit to UA for Saturday's game against Oregon, is Scout.com's third rated prospect in the 2013 class.
The shooting guard, who recently transferred to Westwind Prep in Phoenix, is being heavily targeted by Arizona, which seems to have a pretty good chance.
"I think Chris was in awe by the way that he was acting and had a big grin on his face the whole time," Westwind Prep coach Gary Trousdale said following Thomas' visit on Saturday.
Arizona just won a Pac-10 title relying on a team of mostly good but not great players. As the talent level improves, so will the odds of UA winning a national championship.
"What we as a staff really talk about is becoming a program that can be consistent in how we recruit," says Miller. "It's not one class that makes you, it's not even one player, but it's the consistency from one year to the next that you are constantly bringing in quality players and people that compliment what you don't have or what you do have."
"We want to establish the fact that year in, year out, we're going to keep recruiting at a high level."
Sean Miller is off to a heck of a start.
Stay tuned to WildcatAuthority.com for the next article in this five-part series.
Five reasons why the future is bright, Part I
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