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Arizona is ‘looking for 4-star guys who want to develop’

The Wildcats are shifting their recruiting strategy

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California v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are still trying to land their first 2019 recruit, so it will be a while before the class takes its final shape.

But here’s a spoiler: It probably won’t have as much starpower as UA fans are accustomed to seeing.

Take it from the program’s head coach.

“I’m looking for four-star guys who want to develop, as opposed to just five-star guys who are thinking about how quickly they can leave,” Sean Miller recently told Seth Davis of The Athletic.

Before the FBI probe, Arizona was continually recruiting at an elite level, often coming away with classes ranked in the top-10, if not in the top-5, nationally.

Naturally, that meant UA was a haven for one-and-dones. Arizona has produced six one-and-dones since Miller became head coach in 2009-10, which is the sixth-most in college basketball.

The Wildcats have won five Pac-12 championships during that stretch, but have yet to reach the Final Four. They have also won just two NCAA Tournament games in the last three years.

So some changes have to be made, including ones on the recruiting trail. For Miller, fit and continuity now trump sheer talent.

“That’s not to say we wouldn’t take the next Deandre Ayton, but we want to solidify who we are and then mix in one or two guys who are like that,” he told Davis. “That’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

But is sacrificing elite talent for fit and continuity really the way to go? Arizona will find out soon enough.

The 2018 recruiting class consisted of Brandon Williams, a top-40 recruit, and then two recruits ranked outside the Top 70 — Omar Thielemans and Devonaire Doutrive.

Arizona’s 2019 class could be similar. The Wildcats have offered 10 five-star recruits and 13 four-star recruits in this cycle.

Compare that to 2017, the last recruiting cycle before the FBI investigation, when Arizona offered 21 five-star prospects and 16 four- or three-star prospects, and the shift in strategy is apparent.

But, again, will it work? Miller points to Villanova for evidence that it can. Those Wildcats have won two national championships in the last three years, despite hauling in just three five-star recruits from 2013 to 2017. Arizona has landed eight in the same span (nine if you include Ray Smith).

While Villanova doesn’t recruit at an elite level, it has thrived by developing lower-ranked recruits who fit its four-out motion offense, and complementing them with five-star prospects like Jalen Brunson and Omari Spellman.

“When Villanova had arguably two of their most highly-rated recruiting classes a few years ago, it ended up translating into maybe two of their worst seasons under Jay Wright,” Miller said in May.

“And they learned from that. They tweaked things, they changed things. Some of the things they probably did even better. ... But I know this, they came out on the other side bigger and stronger, built to win and last more so than they ever would have if they didn’t go through those tough times.”