Lute Olson may quite possibly be the best recruiting head coach in the nation when it comes to reach. In state, out of state, out of nation, and even off continent a few times. He once only recruited Arizona and California. Soon the reach extended to the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest.
In 2003 the recruiting class had signees from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas, not a player from the west.
Four of his past five recruits were born in foreign countries. Here is the list of players from the past two seasons' rosters and where they are from. As you can see it is a diverse group.
Salim Stoudamire - Oregon – Northwest
Channing Frye - Arizona – Southwest
Isaiah Fox - SoCal – West Coast
Hassan Adams - So Cal – West Coast
Andre Iguodala - Illinois – Midwest
Chris Rodgers - Oregon - Northwest Mustafa Shakur - Pennsylvania – East Coast
Jawann McClellan - Texas - Southwest Kirk Walters - Michigan - Midwest Jason Ranne - Oklahoma - Heartland Fil Torres – Illinois - Midwest Beau Muhlbach - Texas - Southwest Ivan Radenovic - Serbia-Montenegro - Eastern Europe
The only place Olson's reach did not extend was the Southeast and the past two classes they've been in on several Floridians. Arizona isn't entirely strong on the East Coast, but more and more the Arizona message is being heard..
Not bad you say, well, just wait until you see the 2004 recruits. They only stem from three different countries....and an island.
Jawann McClellan - Texas – Southwest
**The All-American kid with the All-American smile in the class filled with foreigners, but definitely not foreign to the game of basketball**
Mohammed Tangara - first West Africa, then North Carolina – International/Southeast
**Tangara is from Mali, moved to Georgia and then played his high school ball in North Carolina.
Daniel Dillon - first Australia, then Kentucky – International/Southeast
**Dillon is from Australia, but came to Kentucky as a foreign exchange student.
Jesus Verdejo - first Puerto Rico, then Florida, then Massachusetts – International/Southeast/Northeast
**Verdejo hails from Puerto Rico, but played high school ball in Miami and attended prep school in Boston.
I think it is safe to say that Lute Olson & Co. did pretty well covering not only the country's regions, but the entire globe. With the addition of these three international recruits, along with Radenovic and the rest of the Wildcat roster he has now covered the ENTIRE United States, three other continents, and an island that is part of the US.
If you look at the players who made visits, the list is even more impressive. C.J. Giles and Marvin Williams both hail from Washington. Robert Rothbart was from Sacramento via Serbia and Israel. Davis Nwankwo was from Maryland. Isaiah Swann played his high school ball in Virginia and North Carolina. Finally, Shaun Livingston was from Illinois.
Now, Lute Olson is only one man, so it should come as no surprise that he can not do this on his own. He has great assistants on his staff that are stud recruiters.
Jim Rosborough takes care of the Midwest and a little bit of the east as well. Now, he might not quite be on the level of Josh Pastner and Rodney Tention when it comes to recruiting, but a lot of that is by design. Roz is elder statesman on the staff and prefers to let the young bucks do most of the legwork. He handles the home front and saves the rigorous recruiting schedule to the youngins like Pastner and Tention. But when he does need to get out there, he has a knack for uncovering hidden gems and sealing the deal with the right players.
Rodney Tention is the man in the northwest and west. He's one of the best recruiters out there, and along with that skill and his charisma, overall basketball knowledge, and intensity, will one day be a great, not good, but great head coach at a high-major D1 school. Mark my words...and the words of many others. In recent years the west has not been as strong, but that could change this year as California and Washington are loaded and Tention are in on them. Pastner is often judged by elders for being too young. Well if being "too young" gets you recruits like Ndudi Ebi (oops), Jawann McClellan, Nic Wise, Fendi Onobun, and being favorites for many other Texas recruits, then I am all for it. The guy is well liked by every single recruit and parent he meets. That alone, whether he signs as many recruits as he does or not, will get you the respect and name recognition that will go a long, long way. At the tender age of 26, he was considered for the Houston job. 26 folks!!!
Now these three are all great assistant coaches and recruiters, but even better people. Fact remains is near all these recruits may have initially been recruited by one of the Three Amigos, but they ultimately want to play for THE MAN, Hall of Famer. Lute Olson.
Onto the future......
If you take a peek into a crystal ball and see what the Arizona Wildcat coaching staff has in store for you Cat fans you might players born in places ranging from Alaska to Washington, Texas to Puerto Rico, Illinois to Canada.
All part of the phenomenon that is going on down there in Tucson. I, personally, am loving the new International Flava of Wildcat basketball.
This is John's second contribution to Cat Tracks and certainly not his last. If you have an idea for a column or feature e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org