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Sean Miller breaks down Arizona’s 2021 recruiting class—and possible additions

California v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Sean Miller discussed Arizona’s 2021 recruiting class of K.J. Simpson, Shane Nowell and Shane Dezonie for the first time Friday, describing them as three athletic, versatile players that “really can bolster our depth moving forward at the 1, the 2 and the 3.”

“And all three of those guys can be on the court together,” he made sure to add.

Arizona’s class ranks 17th in the country and third in the Pac-12, but lacks its usual starpower as all three signees are ranked outside 247Sports’ Top 80.

That’s by design.

“At this point, we’re looking forward to developing the young people that are in our program,” Miller said. “We’ve tweaked things and tried to target different styles and types of players. Part of what we want to have happen in our program is freshmen becoming better sophomores, sophomores returning with more spirit, experience and going from maybe our seventh or eighth man to a starter.”

Since the Wildcats only have two seniors—both of whom are eligible to return next season—and no surefire one-and-dones like Nico Mannion or Josh Green, they don’t plan to be as active in the spring signing period as usual.

“If we add anything or anybody I’m sure it would come late in the spring, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be more than one player and that player would be a forward or frontcourt player,” Miller said. “If we add anyone at all.”

However, Miller acknowledged that things can always change, noting how he expected Zeke Nnaji to be a multi-year player at Arizona before he burst onto the scene and played his way into the first round of Wednesday’s NBA Draft.

“But what we can clearly control is the conversations and the way we recruit them, really making sure that we’re aligned and them reaching their own goals and choosing Arizona to win championships to develop and to really play college basketball first,” Miller said.

With that said, here’s what Miller said about Arizona’s three signees.

Miller on K.J. Simpson, a 4-star combo guard from Chaminade Prep in West Hills, Calif.: “K.J. is the type of player that we’re really targeting right now in that he loves the game. I would say that in the time that I’ve been here at Arizona, you always try to reflect back on those young players that work for us, that were productive and it worked not only for us but them. And the one characteristic that I believe stands out is Arizona is a big stage with a lot of bright lights, there’s a lot of eyes on our program, we’re in a high expectation environment, and it just doesn’t fit somebody who likes basketball. You have to love it. You have to just be consumed by it and you have to be willing to put the work in. K.J. is that type of person and player.

“He loves the game. He’s not just a point guard. We could play him in a three-guard lineup as a combo guard with another point guard, or I think he could be the one and only guy out there to handle the ball. Very athletic, can be a two way player. I would say that’s the other thing—guys that understand that defense is important and have the ability to play our man-to-man. I think those guys enjoy our program perhaps more than somebody that struggles on that side of the ball. So we want to get a balanced type of player. He comes from an incredible family, played for some really good high school coaches, and a high school program that people really respect and we’re excited to have him. We really are.”

Miller on Shane Nowell, a 4-star guard from Eastside Catholic in Sammamish, Wash.: “I think everybody on this call is familiar with Jaylen, his older brother, who developed at Washington. I got to know Jaylen through Lorenzo Romar, who recruited Jaylen in Seattle. And Shane comes from a great family, lost his father early in his lifetime, which I think really motivates him as a basketball player. But Jaylen Nowell, if you followed his career, he got better as he got older. I think Shane is in many ways a diamond in the rough as we evaluated him. Taller than K.J. Simpson, more 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, but somebody that has the ability to dribble the ball, pass the ball, play in transition. A two-way player, a guy that can play our version of defense, and somebody who doesn’t like the game of basketball but really loves it, that wants to do great things. We’re elated to to have him.

“Obviously Jason Terry was a big connection to Shane because of JT’s relationships in Seattle and being from Seattle himself, which certainly helped make a connection between our basketball program and Seattle as a city. Shane’s grandmother lives in Phoenix as well, which certainly helped us.”

Miller on Shane Dezonie, a 4-star guard from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire: “He would have been the player that maybe we connected with a little bit later than the first two. But Shane, the things that stand out in our recruitment of him is he has been in a very highly competitive setting at the high schools that he’s been at. Plays on one of the best travel teams in our country (PSA Cardinals) and has been well coached. Everybody talks about his motor and what a great competitor he is. Again, someone who loves the game of basketball and can play both offense and defense. We’re lucky right now because he’s at a prep school, Brewster Academy, where there’s been a ton of great talent that’s developed. He’s in kind of a highly competitive environment right now, which is really unique because there’s a lot of high schools, as we know, that aren’t even having a high school season. So he’s practicing every day, which I think really helped him.

“But a lot like Shane Nowell, you can’t pigeonhole Shane (Dezonie) at just one position. He could play multiple positions. We love the fact that he can play defense and offense and is a great competitor from the East that we’re excited to have.”