Five reasons the future is bright, Part II

In the second of a five-part series previewing the future of the Arizona Basketball program, Inna Lazarev takes a look at the UA's signees and commitments, and how they're doing their best to make sure they're surrounded by good players in Tucson.

Reason #5: They've Got Game

Reason #4: Recruits Who Help Recruit

It's no secret what Sean Miller has been able to accomplish on the recruiting trail in his short time at Arizona. However, as good as Miller and his staff are, maybe they don't deserve all the credit. Here's why.

There are two kinds of elite level talents.

There's the type of player that doesn't necessarily value winning, just wants to go to a place where he can put up numbers and get to the league as quickly as possible.

Then there's the other kind; the type of player that genuinely cares about winning at the highest level and wants to be surrounded by other players with the same goal. You don't win championships without players like that.

The types of guys that Arizona has been able to recruit and is actively recruiting for the future are the type of guys that fit into that second category.

These athletes are winners in every sense of the word, and any great athlete who wants to win knows that they need other great athletes around them to be successful.

What exactly does it say when a player helps recruit other players to their program?

"It says a lot," explains assistant coach James Whitford. "It says they feel good about their choice, which is great, and they want to play with other good players.

"I think it says a lot about how much they want to win and who they are as people that they don't just want to have the spotlight to themselves, but they want to share it with other winners."

"All guys that want to win and want to win big; they all want to play with great players," says assistant Archie Miller.

"When you come to college, you want to have a great experience, and to do that sometimes you need to go out and work to get guys that you like and that like you, and at the same time, that fit with the program."

The talented 2011 class that Arizona has been able to reel in has proved that it is doing just that.

It's no secret that Nick Johnson, who may as well be UA's fifth recruiter, played a significant role in locking down backcourt teammate and friend, Josiah Turner.

"I think Nick had a major impact," reveals assistant Book Richardson. "These guys played together on the same summer team, they were around each other all spring and summer, and they respect each other's game. I think they know they complement each other.

"Nick did a tremendous job of recruiting him as hard as we did, and that's because Nick understands what it means to win."

And it doesn't seem like Johnson is satisfied quite yet. When asked who else he hopes to add to his future squad, Johnson had one name in mind.

"Brandon Ashley," he said of the five-star 2012 prospect, without hesitation. "I'm always on him. We have a pretty good chance. Everyone in the country is after him, but I think we have a pretty good chance."

There is no doubt that Johnson is committed to compiling the best possible team, and that is because like the rest of Arizona's signees, he is an unselfish player who displays a team-first mentality.

One can only imagine what was being said when Johnson spent last Saturday in McKale Center sitting next to's third ranked 2013 prospect, Chris Thomas.

With this kind of commitment and dedication, Wildcat fans can rest assured that the talent of the program is only rising.

"In general, kids understand what other kids are going through, so they're not going to apply too much pressure," shares Basketball Recruiting Analyst Brian Snow. "At the same time, if they are friends, that definitely helps.

"Good players want to play with other good players, and in reality that's the most influential factor."

Not only can these guys play, but they also place a heavy premium on winning.

Grant Jerrett and Rosco Allen would compete for playing time at Arizona, yet it hasn't stopped Jerrett from helping recruit Allen to UA. Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol will also compete for playing time, yet it didn't stop Johnson from helping recruit Chol.

That kind of unselfishness is necessary for teams trying to compete for a title. You need players willing to sacrifice individual goals for team goals.

Former Wildcat Richard Jefferson is an example of this type of player. Proving that winning is more important than personal achievements, he opted out of his contract this past off-season, taking less money to sign a long-term deal with the San Antonio Spurs.

Jefferson forfeited $5.25 million this year in exchange for long-term stability with a franchise that has consistently competed for NBA titles for over a decade.

"I'm on a team full of players who sacrifice individual play to win as a team; that's the kind of guys you want to play with," Jefferson assures.

Simply put, good players who strive to play with other good players are the types who win championships. Arizona seems to be quite aware, as these are exactly the kind of guys the Wildcats are bringing in.

After the Oregon game, Nick Johnson wasn't standing far away when he saw the UA players and Sean Miller celebrating their Pac-10 title win. Merely a few feet from Johnson was Chris Thomas.

If Johnson sticks around until his junior year, Thomas will have to compete with him for playing time as a freshman, should he choose Arizona.

While the two of them watched as every player on the Arizona team climbed up a ladder to cut down a piece of a net, celebrating their Pac-10 title, you can be sure that the only thought in their minds was the environment of the celebration, not a possible playing time competition a few years down the line.

Besides, why would Thomas be worried about Johnson when he probably looks up to him?

"Some of the players in our 2011 class, they carry a lot of respect from their peers because they can play," Miller said. "To me, the one thing is that good players want to play with other good players."

In Arizona's case, those good players aren't just sitting around waiting to see who their teammates are going to be. They are putting the guarantee of winning in their own hands and assuring themselves that they'll be surrounded by elite level talent in Tucson.

Arizona isn't just getting talented players, but kids that care about winning.

And thanks in part to their own unselfishness, winning is something they'll do plenty of in Tucson.

Stay tuned to for the next article in this five-part series.

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