Wildcat coaches focus on big men

The Class of 2004 has shown a number of surprises and the Arizona coaching staff is focused on finding a top-notch post player from this class. It's beginning to look like that might just happen.

The best big man at the camp is Al Jefferson, a 6-9, 265-pound monster from Prentiss (HS), Miss. Jefferson has the best footwork of any big man in camp and his quickness and athleticism set him apart from the others.

The second best post player is Brian Johnson, 6-8, from Glenarden (Bishop O'Connell), Md. He might just be at the top of Arizona's wish list. He's a beast at both ends of the floor.

Johnson dominates the glass. He simply goes up and rips the ball away from everyone else. He can shoot the short jumper or score using his strength and agility with his back to the basket. He might need to work harder on the defensive end, but there's much to like about his game.

Arizona has pushed to bring Johnson to the Old Pueblo, but the rumor on the street says North Carolina wins another battle against the Cats.

Darnell Jackson, a 6-7 power forward from Midwest City (HS), Okla., has made a positive impression on everyone at the camp.

Jackson is a workhorse around the basket and at 230 pounds he's a load for any defender to move out of the paint. He can hit the face-up jump shot, but his best work is done with his back to the basket. He also plays with a lot of confidence.

"I feel like I'm one of the top players (here at the Nike Camp)," Jackson said in the press room today. "I don't think I'm the top player, but nobody is the top overall yet. There are a lot of us with great potential. No one is on top yet, but I think I can be one of the best."

Jackson is considering Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas and Arizona but said he would probably hold off on his decision until next spring. That comment has made some question his academic standing. However, according to his high school coach Rodney Dindy, Jackson is a good student and should not have a problem qualifying.

"This will be (Jackson's) first year at Midwest High," Dindy said. "He's a good student and he's really got a lot of potential. He'll be a heck of player for somebody."

UA head coach Lute Olson was also seen watching Mohamad Tangara this evening. Tangara, a 6-8 center from Mali in Africa, is attending Mt. Zion Academy in Durham, NC.

Tangara is very active around the basket. He works hard on both ends of the court and goes after every rebound. Today he went up in traffic, took a rebound off the rim and powered back up for the score.

His list of schools includes Arizona, Miami (Fla.), Louisville, Michigan, Arkansas, Memphis and North Carolina.

Davis Nwankwo, a 6-9 center from College Park (Georgetown Prep), Md., has had somewhat of an up-and-down camp so far. He's played with passion at times and at other times has disappeared.

When his game is on, Nwankwo gets a lot done. He's a great athlete, quick off his feet and a very good shot-blocker. His offense is trailing his defensive skills at this time, but he's worked hard on that part of his game during the last year and he's becoming a better scorer.

Nwankwo has had offers from most of the Big East schools and some from the ACC, but he wants to come out West. His favorites are Stanford and Arizona. Nwankwo is a very good student, and that makes me believe the Cardinal could be leading.

At least two other 2004 prospects have jumped onto the Wildcats' "evaluation list" and only time will tell if they make the cut and are offered scholarships.

Robert Rothbart, a 7-0 center for Cuppertino (Monta Vista), Calif., has shown signs of being an elite-level player, but he has some work to do.

Rothbart has a nice jump shot that he can hit with regularity from 15 feet. At 192 pounds, he's not going to move many defenders out of the paint, so he's going to have to put on weight to be effective with his back to the basket. When he tries to post up against the bigger players, they simply body him out of the post.

He's not particularly quick off his feet, but he's active and his long arms and 7-foot frame makes him difficult to shoot over.

Magnum Rolle, a 6-11 forward from Freeport in the Grand Bahamas, came to the camp as an unknown but he's grabbed a lot of attention. Arizona has shown some interest, but the verdict is still out since the Wildcat coaches have not yet moved on him.

Rolle might be most intriguing of all prospects. He has the ball-handling skills and shooting touch to play on the perimeter, but only the NBA seems to be searching for 7-foot wing players. He certainly has the athleticism to play in the paint, but like Rothbart, Rolle must bulk up to be more effective in traffic.

Lute Olson will take evaluation skills to the ABCD Camp tomorrow and others will jump onto this list in the next couple of days. The recruiting process has really just begun, so stay tuned.

Lots of information has been put up of cattracks.net regarding the Nike Recruiting Camp. For easier navagation click on the Nike Archive.

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Contact Doug with at cattraxdc@aol.com

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