Sean Miller's recruiting: A closer look

Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been a successful recruiter for some time now. What makes him successful? How do AAU coaches view him? Read on to find out.

During his five years as head coach of the Xavier men's basketball team, Sean Miller kept the program successful by relying heavily on a strong local Ohio talent base.

His close-to-home recruiting strategy has differed somewhat since coming to the University of Arizona, but the core theory remains the same, and a number of factors involved give UA fans a clear picture of the origin of future UA players.

In Miller's last season at Xavier, six out of the seven players who started were Ohio natives.

"Sean uses what I call a bread basket approach to recruiting," said Brian Snow, who covered Miller's Xavier teams extensively, and is now a senior writer for

"He likes to get players from as close to home as possible. His breadbasket at Xavier was Ohio and the surrounding states. He was at Xavier during an Ohio talent boon and he certainly took advantage of that. If he got a kid outside of his bread basket area it was probably because of a Book(Richardson) connection."

Miller wasted little time employing a similar approach as UA head coach by securing commitments from Arizona natives Daniel Bejarano and Nick Johnson, despite ASU coach Herb Sendek recruiting both players over a much longer period of time.

However, the state of Arizona, unlike Ohio, does not produce nearly enough annual talent to maintain an elite program.

"If you rely on just Arizona kids you're not going have a job very long," said Snow. "At Xavier there are 6 or 7 major cities within three and a half hours of the school. Phoenix is the only city within three and a half hours of Tucson, so while you obviously want to lock up any elite in-state kids, the breadbasket obviously had to be moved."

This reality forced Miller to look west in order to maximize Arizona's recruiting potential.

"California is loaded with talent year in and year out," Snow said. "With all the kids that are available, it would take a good school six recruiting classes each year to keep the best kids in-state."

Miller has taken the requisite steps to become a major factor on the California recruiting scene. He has made a strong impression on the coach of the Compton Magic, perennially one of the state's most talented AAU programs.

"I love Sean," said Magic coach Etop Udo-Ema. "He's done a great job of recruiting California and making all the right connections. He works hard to recruit good kids and just comes across as very genuine. When you look at the kids he's already gotten out of the state and some of the kids he's in line to get, it really is amazing."

"I'm not at all surprised by his success though, he's a real down to earth guy and someone that kids out here can really relate to. With the conference being down and not a lot of great teams, he got the Arizona job at the perfect time. There are a lot of kids out here looking around and Arizona is just a very appealing place for them to go."

An additional California recruiting advantage for Miller comes from the fact that UCLA does not have the impenetrable fortress around Los Angeles area high school talent it used to have. In the last few years, multiple elite level players from the Los Angeles area have slipped out of UCLA's grasp.

"UCLA was the place that every west coast kid wanted to go to," said Udo-Ema. "That's not really the case anymore. Kids who might have been locks to go to UCLA in years past are looking around and that obviously benefits Sean."

Getting talent out of the California breadbasket has become even more important because the other fertile recruiting ground in the Pac-12 conference--the Pacific Northwest-- has become a bigger recruiting challenge for out-of-state schools. Despite losing a few big names to out of state powers over the years, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has proven to be a formidable recruiter and a popular coach with local kids.

Despite being outside Miller's breadbasket, the talent rich Pacific Northwest is an inviting place for any Pac-12 school to recruit. Interestingly enough, 3 of the top 7 UA scorers during ex-UA coach Lute Olson's tenure were northwest natives.

As of 2010, the Seattle metro area had produced the 5th highest number of current NBA players of any United States city. With multiple players on the cusp of joining the NBA ranks, there's no sign the talent pool is diminishing.

While recruiting the Northwest is still a luxury because of the distance involved, recruiting neighboring California and its vast talent reserves is a necessity.

"Miller doesn't need to go far for talent," said Udo-Ema. "He's starting to turn Arizona into the Duke of the west coast. With that option available, it doesn't make sense for kids to venture far."

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