The Arizona Wildcats officially announced their class of newcomers Thursday, which consists of three incoming freshmen and two graduate transfers.
The quintet will help replace the six players, including five starters, that Arizona lost after the 2017-18 season.
Head coach Sean Miller said the Wildcats are unlikely to add another player for 2018-19, so let’s get to know the five that are coming to Tucson this summer.
Background: Williams is a four-star point guard from Encinas, California, ranked No. 32 in his class, according to 247Sports. He originally committed to Arizona in 2017, but re-opened his recruitment after the ESPN Sean Miller wiretap report. Still, Williams chose Arizona over Oregon and Gonzaga in May to become UA’s most highly-touted newcomer.
Williams missed his junior year of high school after getting precautionary knee surgery due to a condition called steochondritis dissecans.
Miller’s take: “He’s the one that everybody likes to talk about. We know Brandon better than everybody that we’ve recruited because we recruited him the longest.
“I feel great that he came back our way. He’s a fantastic kid, plays for great high school coach, great high school program — Crespi in L.A. — that has produced a lot of terrific players. Brandon wasn’t on the circuit before his senior year of high school and if he was, he’d be McDonald’s All-American. I don’t think there are six guards in his class who were better than him. He’s today’s version of a guard, in that he can both score and distribute. He’s a great athlete — 6-foot-2, very explosive. And we’re thrilled to have him back. A winner as well. He’s won at every level.”
Background info: Justin Coleman is a fifth-year senior, who transferred to Arizona after graduating from Samford. The 5-foot-10 point guard averaged 13.5 points and 6.6 assists last season with the Bulldogs. The Birmingham, Alabama native shot 44 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3, and 81 percent from the free-throw line.
He was a top-100 recruit out of high school, and committed to Alabama where he spent two seasons before transferring.
Miller’s take: “We watched him closely and really had a hard fight to convince him to come to Arizona. He’s your quintessential point guard in that he passes the ball extremely well. I think if you check the history of him as a player at Alabama against one of Oregon’s best teams, I think he finished with 29 points.
“So he’s also capable scoring and shooting, but he’s older, he’s somebody that is in his fifth year of college and every person that we talked to that had coached him or been around him, the two words that kept popping up were high character. And I would say from a leadership perspective, even though he’ll be a new player on our team, he’ll give us that age and that experience that this team really needs.”
Omar Thielemans (pronounced Tilly-Mons)
Background info: Thielemans is a four-star forward from Belgium, who played for BC Ostend last season. He was UA’s second high school commit and was a relatively obscure prospect when he pledged to Arizona in April.
Miller’s take: “Omar came to us via Europe. If you follow recently here with our program, we’ve had great success with Dusan (Ristic) and Lauri (Markkanen) and Keanu (Pinder). The international players that have come here have done really well.”
“I think that attracted Omar, and Omar is one of those players that ... his best days are in front of him. They’re not now. His development over the next couple years will be crucial to our program and in his career. But there’s a lot to work with. He loves the game. He’s 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, he’s played in international competition, has a very unselfish nature to him. Very good athlete. And I think there’s a lot for us to work with and develop, and he’ll be able to impact us on the wing at either position.”
Background info: Doutrive is a four-star wing from Birmingham High School in Los Angeles. He is the No. 69 player in 247Sports’ composite rankings, and was UA’s first 2018 commit.
Miller’s take: “(He) was the first player to join us. And his family, there’s always a special place for them because at that moment when our season ended, we needed that first player to say yes, and he was that guy from Los Angeles. But Devonaire has a world of talent, a lot like Omar. But he progressed in his senior year of high school by leaps and bounds. In your experience as a coach, you want to continue to deal with players and coach them and recruit those that have worked for you in the past. And I would say the late bloomer tag on Devonaire is the right tag, and usually when you hit your stride late, you keep improving by leaps and bounds. And I believe that will be the case with him.
“I really believe who he is from June coming in (as a freshman) until the spring of his freshman year, he’s going to get bigger and stronger and better. But he’s a tremendous athlete, can really handle the ball, a big guard ... somebody who’s versatile and you don’t have to pigeonhole him into one position. He can play multiple positions, and Devonaire, a lot like Omar, is not a 6-2 guard. He’s 6-foot-5 and a very good athlete, but also great kid and worked hard in his life ... And I think that he will be someone who has a really outstanding career for us.”
Background info: Luther is a graduate transfer from Pittsburgh. Originally from Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 12.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in 10 games last season, before suffering a season-ending foot injury. He shot 39 percent from 3.
Miller’s take: “If he wouldn’t have had a season-ending injury, his career would be over, but in some ways I think both for us and him, it’s nice that he still has one year left. A lot like Justin Coleman, he’s experienced, he’s older, he’s played in the ACC, he’s played for two tremendous coaches, Kevin Stallings and Jamie Dixon.
“Both of those coaches rave about him as a kid and as a player. I know his family well, very similar to my relationship with T.J. McConnell and his family. I kind of grew up drinking the same water and I know him where he’s from.
“I think from a physical perspective, skill he adds to our frontcourt. And our frontcourt isn’t maybe as deep this coming year a it’s been, but with Ryan and then Chase Jeter, you have two players that are in their fourth and fifth year, respectively, in college. Both guys played in the ACC, both guys have played with and against great players, and played for tremendous college coaches. So they’re not your typical high school incoming freshmen. They are more battle-tested, which I think will balance out a lot of the change that we’ve had over the last year.”