Landing Bayless was huge

Once again the Wildcats keep a player home. Jerryd Bayless becomes the latest, and possibly greatest, Arizonan to commit to Lute Olson and the Wildcats. His verbal pledge on Friday adds additional support to claims that Olson is going just as strong now as he ever has.

Getting Bayless was huge. He's a top-10 player, who has all of the skills to continue Arizona's run of sending guards to the NBA. Bayless can play either guard spot and it would be a huge shocker if he doesn't push for minutes at both guard spots the minutes he steps on campus.

As big a get as Bayless is, it would have been a disaster had he not become a Wildcat. Considering Bayless is both a point guard and an Arizonan, he is a perfect match for Olson's program. Arizona is "Point Guard U." and when Lute wants to keep players in state, he does. Other than Vegas Davis in the late 90's, Arizona has not lost an in-state player that he really wanted.

Had Bayless chosen another school, it may have signified that Olson and the program was slipping. It could have sent warning signals that a player who appeared to be a natural fit for the Wildcats chose to leave the state for another school.

Instead it has done quite the opposite. Bayless joins Alex Jacobson and Chase Budinger as big time players pledging to Arizona in the last few months. Budinger is a fringe top-10 player, while Jacobson is a legit seven-footer who should crack the top-50 lists by the time he signs a year from now. The fact that two big time 2007 players have enough faith in Olson to commit a year early should send shockwaves that Olson will be on the sidelines for several years to come.

Bayless now joins Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and Mike Bibby as elite players from Phoenix who have committed to Arizona. The first three are all in the NBA and Bayless has a shot.

The Cats offered Davis, a standout from the Parker area the same year Bibby committed, but he hemmed and hawed and wound up committing to Tennessee and never made an impact at the D-I level.

There have been some other big time players in the state over the last few years and the Cats have been involved, but never really coveted those players like they did the ones they landed.

In 2002 the Cats looked at Matt Haryasz and Bryson Krueger, but never offered. Krueger committed to Vanderbilt, wound up at a JC and is now playing for ASU.

The Cats liked Haryasz a lot, but at the time were loaded in the post and did not seriously pursue the Page product. Ironically enough the Cats would take a hit with inside players and could have used the mobile big man who is now starring at Stanford.

In 2003 the Cats looked a bit at wing Devon Evertson, but never offered and he ended up committing to Boston College.

Tucson produced Damir Sulgajic, a talented big man, but he went to Texas Tech without much interest from the Wildcats.

Last year Arizona passed on both Joey Shaw and Lawrence Hill. They took a long look at Hill, a combo forward, but quit pursuing him when Fendi Onobun committed. Shaw was never in the picture. Despite interest from Indiana, Texas and Nevada, the Cats were more interested in players like Marcus Williams and Martell Webster.

Budinger, Quincy Pondexter and Seth Tarver garnered the Cats attention this year, so they passed on Christian Polk who wound up at ASU.

They did not pass on Bayless, quite the opposite. The Cats started pursuing the guard when he was in middle school and made it know when he was a freshman that they wanted him in the fold. Like the other Arizonans before him, Bayless found the opportunity to play elite basketball less than two hours from home to be the perfect fit.

Olson got his man and that is good news for Wildcat fans.

Wildcat Authority Top Stories