With the Arizona Wildcats struggling at a historic level right now, fans have started pinning their hope on the prized 2019 recruiting class to turn the program around next season.
The five-man group currently ranks No. 1 in the country and the headliner is five-star point guard Nico Mannion, who plays up I-10 at Phoenix’s Pinnacle High School.
But the recent firing of assistant coach Mark Phelps and the ongoing federal and NCAA investigations have caused some concern that Arizona’s 2019 class will never actually make it to campus, even though four of the five commits have signed National Letters of Intent and were officially announced in November.
While NLIs are binding, recruits can often get a release if there is a major shakeup within a program, such as a coaching staff overhaul or NCAA sanctions.
In Mannion’s case, Phelps, who was suspended after an alleged NCAA violation, was his primary recruiter. Still, Mannion recently affirmed his commitment to Arizona in an interview with Cronkite News.
“The information that me and my family got from Arizona is that everything’s fine (down) there,” Mannion said. “They’re just doing what’s right for the university. I have 100 percent trust in coach (Sean) Miller, so I’m sticking with (my commitment).”
Mannion said he was very close with Phelps, and used to talk to him on the phone at least twice a week, the conversation ranging from anything from basketball to “girls, family, school, everything.”
“He’s a great coach and a great person,” Mannion told Cronkite News. “One mistake shouldn’t ruin someone’s career.”
Mannion scored 35 points on Tuesday in Pinnacle’s Class 6A state quarterfinal win over Phoenix Brophy Prep, pushing him past the 2,000-point milestone for his career.