How have non-American born players fared with the Wildcats in the Miller era? It’s been pretty hit or miss. Below is a breakdown.
(Note: Nico Mannion was not included on this list because his family moved to the United States from Italy when he was 2 years old.)
Kyryl Natyazhko, Ukraine (2009-12)
The 6-foot-11 Ukrainian attended IMG Academy in Florida and was a top-10 center in the 2009 recruiting class. However, he only appeared in 91 games over three seasons at Arizona, averaging 9.4 minutes, 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game before going pro after his junior season.
Angelo Chol, Sudan (2011-13)
Chol’s family fled war-torn Sudan when he was 6 and spent a year in Egypt before moving to San Diego. A four-star recruit ranked in the top-60, Chol was long and athletic and appeared in all 35 games as a freshman, averaging 2.1 points, 2.3 boards and 0.8 blocks in 12.2 minutes.
His minutes and production dipped as a sophomore and he transferred to San Diego State where he’d spend the final two years of his career as a bench player.
Dusan Ristic, Serbia (2014-2018)
Originally from Novi Sad, Serbia, Ristic immigrated to the United States in 2014 and briefly attended Sunrise Christian in Kansas where he was a three-star recruit and only lightly recruited by major-conference schools.
Joining a stacked Arizona team in 2014-15, Ristic did not have a prominent role immediately but improved each season, eventually averaging a career-high 12.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game as a senior. The skilled center departed as the winningest player in program history, a title he still owns.
Lauri Markkanen, Finland (2016-17)
A top-40 recruit, Markkanen picked Arizona over Utah and North Carolina. The 7-footer was even better than expected, averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in his lone season with the Wildcats, earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 Team. Markkanen shot a blistering 42 percent from 3, a big reason he was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Markkanen’s Arizona team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before being ousted by Xavier in a game in which Markkanen did not take a shot in the final 10 minutes.
Keanu Pinder, Australia (2016-18)
A defensive specialist, Pinder joined Arizona from the junior college ranks and averaged 2.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 11.3 minutes across 67 games. He understood his role, only taking 93 shots in two seasons with the Wildcats, making 60 percent of them. He shot a nice 69 percent as a senior.
Emmanuel Akot, Canada (2017-19)
A former five-star recruit, Akot was originally a 2018 commit but reclassified to 2017. While he was lauded for having a versatile skill set, it never showed up at Arizona. In 48 games, he averaged 2.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 13.5 minutes.
Akot appeared in 17 games in 2018-19 before leaving the program, a pretty shocking decision considering he had started in 11 straight games. He landed at Boise State where he had to sit out the 2019-20 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Deandre Ayton, Bahamas (2017-18)
Though Ayton went to high school in the Phoenix area, Miller continually made it clear that he was an international recruit. Ayton spent most of his childhood in the Bahamas before immigrating to the States.
Blessed with transcendent size and athleticism, the 7-footer was a top-5 recruit in the 2017 class and lived up to the hype, being named the Pac-12 Player of the Year after averaging 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game on 61 percent shooting. Ayton became the first Wildcat to go No. 1 in the NBA Draft.
Unfortunately, Ayton’s time at Arizona will be most remembered by an ESPN report that said Miller paid him $100,000 to attend Arizona, as well as the first-round exit against Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament.
Omar Thielemans, Belgium (2018-19, sort of)
The 6-foot-6 wing was a late add to the 2018 recruiting class, purely out of desperation. Arizona lost commitments from Shareef O’Neal and Jahvon Quinerly because of the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption, forcing the Wildcats to scramble to fill out a recruiting class.
Thielemans was an obscure prospect from Belgium, and while he was eventually labeled a four-star recruit, it quickly became clear he was not a Pac-12 level player. He left the UA program before ever suiting up for the Wildcats. He now attends South Plains College, a junior college in Texas.
Josh Green, Australia (2019-20)
Another IMG product, the former McDonald’s All-American and top-15 recruit stuffed the stat sheet in his lone season at Arizona, averaging 12.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.5 steals in 30.9 minutes. An athletic 6-foot-6 wing, Green is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Christian Koloko, Cameroon (2019-present)
Koloko grew up in Cameroon but attended high school in the Los Angeles area. A three-star recruit, Koloko was dubbed as a project when he signed with Arizona but his shot-blocking and rebounding proved to be a valuable asset off the bat for the Wildcats in 2019-20.
The 7-foot freshman swatted 25 shots in only 233 minutes, a 12.4 block percentage that ranked second-best in the Pac-12 and ninth nationally. He figures to have a significant role as a sophomore after Zeke Nnaji left for the NBA and Stone Gettings and Chase Jeter graduated.