Johnson gone, Cats switching gears

Just two days after landing Zane Johnson, the Wildcats were dealt a blow in their recruiting efforts. Power forward Gary Johnson pulled a mild shocker and committed to Texas. Now the Wildcats have to turn their attention elsewhere in their attempts to land a power forward.

It's not a huge shock that the Cats lost Johnson to Texas. The Cats and Longhorns were expected to be in the thick of the battle for the 6-7 athlete from Houston. What is a surprise is that he committed so early. For the past few months Johnson has claimed that he was going to wait until his birthday in October.

Behind the scenes many thought the Cats had a slight lead due to Johnson's ties to the Houston Hoops and players like Nic Wise, Jawann McClellan and Fendi Onobun.

In the end Johnson decided to stay close to home.

"I think he's come to the conclusion that being not too far away from Houston gives him a chance to have a great supporting cast there to cheer him on," Aldine coach Ezekiel Smith told Dave Telep.

The Wildcats were dealt a major blow as Johnson was their top power forward prospect. In fact most of their attention had gone to Johnson and he is one of only a few big men in the class the Cats had been actively pursuing. Now they have a lot of ground to make up.

If there is any good news in this scenario it is the fact that Johnson chose to commit before the July shoe camps. This will give the Arizona staff ample time to scout players and attempt to get in on some quality big men. Had Johnson chosen to commit in October the Cats would have been left in a bit of a lurch.

The Cats have just a few other offers out there, but expect that to change. I would be shocked if the Cats don't emerge from the shoe camps with a number of new players to pursue. There was a time when the bulk of a class was discovered at the various shoe camps. Now, however, players are ‘discovered' much earlier. Arizona heads into the camps with three players verbally committed. As recently as 2003 the Wildcats did not have a single player committed before the July camps.

So who are the Cats currently after? That is a good question.

Right now J.J. Hickson is one player the Cats have been in on for some time. Hickson expressed interest in the Wildcats as recently as last month and with some added interest on the Wildcats' side the big man from Georgia could be a possibility.

The Wildcats have been attached to DeAndre Jordan and Anthony Randolph, but they have not been in contact for some time. Rumor has it that the Cats may be scared off by the inconsistent effort given by each player.

Darnell Gant has not heard much from the Cats, but said at the Pangos camp that he'd like to hear from Olson's program. Two obstacles are in the Cats' way. First off, Gant is believed to favor UCLA. Grades could also be a problem for the athletic big man from Crenshaw High School.

At one point Alex Tyus really liked the Cats but over the last few months he failed to list the school among his favorites. Considering he wants to make a decision soon, it looks to be too late for the Cats to get back in the hunt.

There are two fairly intriguing possibilities, both hailing from California. The first is Matt Simpkins. Simpkins is an athletic 6-9 forward from Sacramento who likes Arizona quite a bit. The problem is that Simpkins has a lot of academic issues and was trying to reclassify to the 2008 class to better his chances of getting in school. If, and it is a big if, Simpkins could qualify for 2007, he'd seem like a natural fit to fill out the class. More than likely, the Cats will have to wait another year to add Simpkins to the fold.

The second California player the Cats could be evaluating is Clint Amberry. Amberry is a thin, 6-9 post player from Los Alamitos High School in Southern California. Not a highly rated recruit, Amberry was actually fairly impressive at the Cats' Advanced Skills Camp and may have done enough this past weekend to warrant further evaluation.

Surely there will be other names to emerge over the next few weeks. All that is certain is that the Cats need an athletic power forward to go along with seven footer Alex Jacobson.

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