It's sort of ridiculous we can already talk about next summer. The Arizona basketball program is months from throwing together this year's iteration, but what we do know is that players on a very good team could turn a very good season into very good NBA careers.
Arizona's commitment from 2015 swingman Ray Smith gave the Wildcats their 10th five-star recruit in the Sean Miller era, and as Gary Parrish noted for CBS Sports, that means he's right behind John Calipari as one of the best recruiters in the nation.
The Wildcats could potentially bring in three more top-25 recruits to go with Justin Simon and Smith. Miller is after shooting guards Allonzo Trier and Isaiah Briscoe, and in the mix with a good number of other top prospects. That's good, because Arizona very well could need to bodies. And talent.
T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski: All of those players could be leaving Tucson after the 2014-15 season. Even incoming big man Dusan Ristic is considered a future NBA talent and with a strong showing in college could potentially become an early-entry prospect sooner rather than later. ESPN's Jeff Goodman ranks Arizona fourth in terms of having the most pro talent, behind only Kentucky, Kansas and Duke.
Fellow ESPN Insider Paul Biancardi ranks Arizona incoming freshman Stanley Johnson as the third-best one-and-done prospect in the 2014 class:
I watched Johnson competing against other college upperclassmen recently at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy, and he immediately stood out. Scouts in attendance were high on his NBA-ready body, which is chiseled and powerful. The improvement that is noticeable for Johnson over the past couple of years is that his skill level is catching up to his body, making him a legitimate scoring threat. Arizona coach Sean Miller is a master at utilizing players' strengths, and he'll enable Johnson to be in a position to succeed.
Chad Ford's top-100 big board lists Johnson as the eighth-best prospect eligible for the 2015 NBA Draft. Hollis-Jefferson comes in 14th -- though Ford notes he could even leap Johnson -- Ashley is 38th and Tarczewski is 43rd. Draft Express's 2015 mock draft reads similarly, with Johnson projected to go fifth overall, RHJ at 14, Tarczewski at 34 and Ashley at 52.
All of this is to say Sean Miller's limited time with his current players -- he's never been shy about pointing out the NCAA restrictions -- may be helping manage his time better. His focus in recruiting is greatly needed.
Stitching up his returning players' egos doesn't seem to be on Miller's shoulders. Tarczewski, Hollis-Jefferson and Ashley returned this season with a press conference that came with a theme about unfinished business. They'll be just fine in terms of motivating themselves and each other. Schematically, there are a few holes (the starting unit might be the best in the nation but who can impact the game off the bench?) that will take the non-conference schedule to plug.
Yep. It's silly for us to worry and wonder if the Wildcats will be able to field a team in 2015-16. But maybe it's not so much since Sean Miller is having to figure this out months before he even throws the 2014-15 Arizona squad into their Red-Blue game.