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What Nico Mannion’s commitment means for Arizona

Kelly Kline/Under Armour

The Arizona Wildcats landed their point guard of the future Friday when five-star prospect Nico Mannion pledged to the ‘Cats.

The 6-foot-3 Phoenix product is the No. 1 point guard in the 2019 class, per 247Sports composite rankings.

He is the Wildcats’ first 2019 commit, and here is what it means for them.

Point guard position is solidified

Aside from a two-year stint with T.J. McConnell, Arizona’s point guard play under Sean Miller has left a lot to be desired. Parker Jackson-Cartwright, McConnell’s successor, was a quintessential pass-first point guard, but was limited because of his size. Then there were guys like Kadeem Allen and Mark Lyons who were shooting guards squeezed into playing the point.

Modern basketball revolves around guard play, and more specifically guys who can create offense for themselves and others. The Wildcats seemingly had players who could do one of those things but not both. Sure, it’s not the only reason Arizona has underperformed in March, but it was certainly one of them.

Mannion can change that. And if you think Brandon Williams is a multi-year player then the Wildcats will have two dynamic playmaking guards when Mannion is on campus. Oh, the possibilities.

Becoming more guard-oriented isn’t a new strategy, by the way. Miller has been trying to form a backcourt like this, and he would have had it in 2018-19 if the FBI investigation did not derail Jahvon Quinerly’s recruitment. Remember, the plan was to have Quinerly and Williams this season.

But Mannion and Williams sounds pretty good, too.

The domino effect

We saw this with Devonaire Doutrive in the 2018 cycle. Once he committed, other recruits followed and the Wildcats finished with a Top-30 class, despite having to start from scratch after the FBI investigation.

It’s not rocket science: good players want to play with other good players. And it will be easier for Arizona to pitch itself to recruits now that it has a point guard like Mannion in the fold.

And, hey, it just so happens that one of Mannion’s AAU teammates, five-star wing Josh Green, will be on campus with Mannion during the weekend of the Red-Blue Game. So will five-star forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

Could a second commitment be near? Mannion will certainly be pushing for it.

Back to normalcy

Arizona needed Mannion. Yes, he is ultra-talented and fills a position of need, but it would have been a bad look if the Wildcats lost a prized in-state talent to a distant school like Marquette. The “Arizona/Sean Miller can’t recruit at an elite level anymore” takes would have been spewing.

Instead, the Wildcats were able to nab their first five-star recruit since the FBI investigation, a sign that Arizona’s recruiting efforts have recovered from the scandal — or are at least well on their way to doing so.

Sure, another shoe could drop and Arizona could find itself right back in the middle of the FBI investigation before you know it, but for now all seems right in the Old Pueblo.