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What Daniel Batcho’s commitment means for Arizona

Among other things, the French forward brings skill and depth to the frontcourt

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The Arizona Wildcats made another international splash on Thursday, signing French big man Daniel Batcho, who is deemed the top international big man to go the college route.

Here is what the 6-foot-10, 225-pound forward’s commitment means for the Wildcats.

The international pipeline is so real

Batcho becomes the fourth member of Arizona’s 2020 recruiting class, three of whom are foreign-born. There’s Batcho from France, Kerr Kriisa from Estonia, and Bennedict Mathurin from Canada.

As we’ve outlined before, the Wildcats have had a very solid track record with international players under Sean Miller, the most notable ones being Lauri Markkanen, Dusan Ristic, Josh Green and Deandre Ayton.

That reputation no doubt played a factor in landing Batcho.

”It was good to see that Arizona has had success with international players in the past,” he told ESPN. “That shows they have a global understanding of the game that goes beyond the U.S. boundaries. I definitely want to keep this tradition and have success there myself.”

Arizona could land another international prospect in Turkish forward Tibet Gorener, who recently picked up an offer from the Wildcats.

Miller deserves credit for making some quality adds this late in the recruiting process. The class ranked 18th in the country before adding Batcho.

Much-needed skill and depth in the frontcourt

Arizona badly needed some frontcourt depth as the departures of Zeke Nnaji (NBA Draft) and Stone Gettings (graduation) left them only with Jordan Brown, Christian Koloko and Ira Lee up front.

Batcho already might be the best player in that group and he fills a need with his offensive prowess. He averaged a team-best 14.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in four games with CFBB Paris in the Adidas Next Generation Tournament, earning MVP honors. That included a 24-point, 15-rebound, 3-block outing in the championship game.

Batcho shot 70% (!) from the field and 13 for 17 (76.5%) from the free-throw line.

“Batcho is a physical player and excellent rebounder who is able to play both power forward and center, wrote ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. “He does most of his damage around the basket, where he embraces contact and has a soft touch and reliable hands that allow him to catch everything thrown his way. His team in France ran quite a bit of offense through him, as he is a good passer and decision-maker for a big man.”

While some international players need time to adjust to the college game, Batcho seems ready to play big minutes from the get-go. Arizona has plenty to offer as neither Brown, Koloko or Lee are established players.

That apparently was enticing enough for him to turn down professional offers from some of the top French clubs.

“It’s always difficult to make this kind of decision, but I wanted to have the opportunity to play right away and have a big impact,” Batcho told ESPN. “I also wanted to get physically ready and adjust to an up-tempo style of play that will help me make the transition to the next level.”

Shooting is now Arizona’s No. 1 need

The Wildcats have two scholarships left and it’s now oh-so-clear what they should be trying to do with them—add 3-point shooters.

Below are the career 3-point percentages of Arizona’s experienced guards and wings. Only Akinjo has shot above the nation’s average.

  • Jemarl Baker Jr. — 33.4%
  • Brandon Williams — 31.6%
  • James Akinjo — 36.1%
  • Terrell Brown — 30.3%

Kerr Kriisa is the only incoming player known for being a deadly marksman, so he will help, but you can never have too many shooters. The good news is both of Arizona’s known recruiting targets—Gorener and 6-foot-5 wing Kerwin Walton—are lauded for their outside shots.

Walton, a four-star prospect, will be announcing his college decision on Saturday. The Minnesotan is picking between Arizona, North Carolina, Creighton, Minnesota, Georgetown and Vanderbilt. It’s unclear who the favorite is, but Arizona is thought to have a pretty good shot.

Arizona isn’t going for a quick fix anymore

Arizona has lost 13 players over the last two years, including eight after the 2019-20 season alone.

That kind of roster turnover has hurt them when it’s come to building team chemistry. It’s also had a negative effect on the fan base, whose had very little time to connect with the players they are supposed to be supporting. McKale Center attendance was down to 13,604 this year, more than 1,000 below capacity.

That could change in 2020-21 as the Wildcats will enter the season with only two seniors (Lee and Brown) and no surefire one-and-done freshmen.

It’s why missing out on a graduate transfer like Matt Haarms could actually be a good thing. That would have only perpetuated Arizona’s problem of going for a quick fix instead of a lasting foundation.

Here’s a possible depth chart

PG: James Akinjo*/Terrell Brown/Kerr Kriisa

SG: Brandon Williams**/Jemarl Baker Jr.

SF: Dalen Terry/Bennedict Mathurin

PF: Jordan Brown/Ira Lee

C: Daniel Batcho/Christian Koloko

Expect lots of three-guard lineups.

* might have to wait until the end of the fall semester to play because of NCAA transfer rules

** if healthy