Recruiting: Philly to Florida, Texas to Reno

With only a few weeks remaining before the early signing period, Arizona assistant coaches Rodney Tention and Josh Pastner each made whirlwind journeys during the last few days of this recent contact period in a last ditch effort to remain "visible" in the eyes of those who matter most.

Tention and Pastner both left Tucson last Wednesday night. Tention headed for Philadelphia, Pastner for Houston. Each had essentially the same purpose, only their agenda was different.

Mustafa Shakur is the No. 1 point guard in the Class of 2003 and Tention wanted to be certain Shakur knew exactly how important he was to the future of Wildcat basketball. After all, Arizona has become known as Point Guard U and point guards joining the Wildcats are almost assured of an NBA career after leaving college. The history of UA basketball has not been lost on Shakur.  Shakur is well aware of the point guards that have worn Wildcat uniforms in the past, and he's has "privately" confided that he wants to be a Wildcat. But he has also made a promise to NC State head coach Herb Sendek that he will make his official visit the Wolf Pack campus before making his final decsion. Shakur will visit NC State the weekend Sept. 27-29.

This is also a time when coaches can begin bonding with players from the Class of 2004. Just in case the Wildcats fail to land Shakur, and as Yogi says "It ain't over til it's over", the coaching staff is making inroads with many of the top points from the junior class. However, if the Wildcats land Shakur, it's unlikely they will pursue a point for the 2004 class.

After his visit with Shakur, Tention hopped on a plane and headed to Florida to see 6-0 Darius Washington, a dynamic point guard who is a scoring machine. Washington,  from Edgewater (HS), Fla, is just one of at least four points from the Class of '04 showing an interest in the Wildcats. The others include Shaun  Livingston (6-6 from Illinois), Jason Horton (6-0 Texas) and Daniel Gibson (6-1 Texas). All four will be among the top five or six point guards in their class.

Pastner made his presence know by traveling to Texas and "bonding" with Horton and Gibson before making what could prove to be the most important mission of the last week. After spending a couple of days in Texas, Pastner flew to Reno, Nev. and dropped in on David Padgett and his family.

In the beginning of the recruiting process, Padgett was at the top of the Wildcats list of priority recruits. He became the first of the Class of 2004 to officially visit the UA campus when the coaching  brought him in for a visit in April. At the time many thought Padgett was favoring Arizona, but as time passed and he visited other schools the courtship looked like it might be going in two directions.

Depending on the recruiting service you might be visiting at the time, Padgett has been listed as favoring either Kansas or Stanford. If that was the case, Pastner hoped to change it with a last minute appeal to David and his father.

"Coach Pastner was in on Friday," David Padgett said when we spoke Sunday afternoon. "We talked for about an hour. All the coaches are making their last pitch. They've been here over the last two or three weeks."

Pete Padgett, David's father and coach, has mentored his son through the process of choosing a school. To win David's commitment, a school first has to win his father's appoval and the purpose of the mission was to win back the confidence of David and his father.

"My dad has been a lot of help," David said. "He went through this as a player and my grandfather went through it as a parent. They're both coaches so they've been on both sides of the (recruiting process). It's been a big help to have them involved."

I can't say for certain that Pastner got the job done while he was in Reno, but I would bet Arizona is much more of a contender than it was before the trip. It's no longer KU or Stanford. The Wildcats are right there after Pastner's visit and could be a surprise winner when David announces his decision.

Brian Butch, a 7-0 center from Appleton (West), Wis., visited Kansas this weekend and has one trip remaining. Butch will visit Wisconsin the weekend of Oct 4-6. He'll then choose between Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas, Marquette and Wisconsin. The Badgers will be tough to beat, but something tells me Butch will choose between Arizona and North Carolina.

One of the biggest surprises of the summer camp circuit was Kirk Walters, a 6-10 center from Grand Rapids (South Christian), Mich. Walters was getting the usual attention from his instate universities, but nothing like what he's getting these days. Since the Junly camps ended, Walters has received interest in 25 other schools.

Walters has narrowed his list to four. Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Marquette and Arizona. Central Michigan and Arizona are the favorites. He'll visit the UA campus for Midnight Madness celebration the weekend of Oct. 11.

The celebration might include a few commitments, so stay tuned.

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