It’s been difficult to find positive news about Arizona Wildcats basketball lately, but that changed in a big way Saturday when they landed a commitment from four-star guard Devonaire Doutrive.
The 6-foot-5 Southern Californian is a top-100 prospect, and he becomes the first member of UA’s 2018 recruiting class. (You can read more about him here.)
It’s a major development for the Wildcats and here’s why...
Let’s just get this out there: Arizona is only returning six scholarship players, so it needs to add several players this offseason.
Well, they have now made one addition and we can pencil in Doutrive as Arizona’s seventh player, lengthening its rotation no matter what happens the rest of this recruiting cycle (though other dominos will surely fall).
Interestingly enough, Doutrive has a similar build as Dylan Smith and Brandon Randolph, so there will be a healthy competition among them throughout the offseason.
And when you factor Emmanuel Akot into that group — he’s bigger and lengthier — it creates a decent-at-worst quartet of wings.
How much of an immediate impact Doutrive makes and how much the returners improve remains to be seen, but at least Arizona has potential on the perimeter.
While Doutrive is a two-guard, Evan Daniels of 247Sports lauded his playmaking ability, writing that Doutrive is a “tremendous passer with good vision.”
That is good news if it’s an accurate evaluation. That’s because none of Arizona’s returners really showed those traits this past season.
Smith, Randolph, Akot, and Alex Barcello combined for 107 assists to 79 turnovers. They were mostly relegated to being spot-up shooters.
And Chase Jeter and Ira Lee won’t be as offensively gifted as Dusan Ristic or Deandre Ayton, so it’s important Arizona has perimeter players that are able to create shots for themselves and others.
Of course, Arizona’s returners will improve and maybe someone like Akot or Randolph will emerge as a go-to playmaker, but having another option like Doutrive only helps.
(These last few points are also why Arizona desperately needs to land a point guard this offseason, like Brandon Williams or James Akinjo.)
Arizona’s leading returning scorer is Dylan Smith, who averaged just 4.3 points per game this season, so it doesn’t have any proven scoring threats on its roster.
But obviously points will have to come from somewhere, and Doutrive should be a contributor in that regard.
Daniels wrote that Doutrive is “an equipped scorer that’s capable of heating up quick. He’s comfortable shooting on the move, does a good job creating space and is a good finisher at the rim.”
Daniels also called Doutrive an “athletic two-way” player, so perhaps he can fortify UA’s perimeter defense, which was a serious weakness in 2017-18.
That said, most freshmen have a steep learning curve defensively when they first get to college, so it’s probably not fair to assume Doutrive is going to be a defensive-stopper or anything like that from day one.
But at least he appears to have the tools to be a solid defender and is revered as someone who is effective on that end of the floor.
A big part of the Wildcats’ struggles defensively the last few years is that they’ve had guys who physically weren’t capable of being top-notch defenders and/or weren’t 100 percent invested on that end of the floor.
If Doutrive has the makeup to be a solid defender and likes to get after it defensively, that’s already a step in the right direction to Arizona re-establishing itself as a dominant defensive team.
Especially since Chase Jeter, Ira Lee, and Emmanuel Akot are more defensive-minded than those they will (likely) be replacing in the starting lineup next season.
A domino effect
Now that Arizona finally has a 2018 commit in the fold, it could start a domino effect where more recruits follow suit and pledge to the Wildcats.
Why? Because the road less traveled is always harder to walk. Doutrive’s commitment could be assurance to other interested recruits that it is OK to play at Arizona.
Plus, generally speaking, good players want to play with other good players. So Arizona having a commitment from a top-100 prospect should only boost its recruiting efforts from here on out.
Meanwhile, Doutrive’s commitment finally gives Wildcat fans something to be positive about. They have not been able to get excited about a new player — or much of anything — in months.
Doutrive’s commitment also curtails that sky-is-falling mentality that had been rampant throughout Arizona’s fanbase since the end of the NCAA Tournament.
Sure, the Wildcats aren’t recruiting at the level they used to, and Doutrive is by no means an elite prospect, but his commitment shows this offseason might be salvageable.
Arizona’s recruiting class now ranks 101st in the nation, but if it re-ups with Williams it would jump all the way to 38th, per 247Sports class calculator.
Add a third recruit and a grad transfer or two and all of a sudden you’re looking at a roster that’s talented enough to finish in the top third of the Pac-12.
So don’t give up on the 2018-19 season just yet.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire