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What Tibet Gorener’s commitment means for Arizona

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The Arizona Wildcats continued their recruiting hot streak Monday when they landed four-star Turkish forward Tibet Gorener, who becomes the fifth member of the 2020 class.

Here is what his commitment means for the Wildcats.

This is a (International) Player’s Program

By landing Gorener and whiffing on Kerwin Walton, Arizona ensured that it will be adding more international players (4) than domestic players (2) to next year’s roster since it only has one more scholarship to fill.

They come from quite the array of countries too:

  • France (Daniel Batcho)
  • Estonia (Kerr Kriisa)
  • Canada (Bennedict Mathurin)
  • Turkey (Tibet Gorener)

It’s hard to know what kind of implications this will carry. I’ve seen a lot of people assume they will all be multi-year players, that one-and-dones are a thing of the past. But I wouldn’t go that far. Not yet.

Just like American players, foreign prospects dream of going pro and will have plenty of offers to do so if they turn in strong seasons with the Wildcats, whether that is a chance to get drafted into the NBA or sign a lucrative contract overseas. In fact, their willingness to play overseas could make them more likely to leave early than an American prospect with a similar résumé.

When I talked to former UA center Dusan Ristic last month, he said he weighed his options after every season in Tucson, and strongly considered signing overseas after his junior year even though most fans probably thought he was a lock to return since he was a good, but not great, college player.

So, my advice: take it year by year with these international players—and every player for that matter. College basketball isn’t what it used to be.

More shooting, but this time from the frontcourt

Even after signing Kriisa, Arizona needed more 3-point shooters, and what a way to address that by adding Gorener who is one of top shooters in the 2020 class, according to 247Sports.

“Has range to perimeter and can shoot off catch and pull. Improved ball skills have made him bigger threat off bounce,” his scouting report reads.

Gorener shot 14 for 40 (35%) from 3 for Turkey in the 2019 FIBA U18 European Championships and 15 for 38 (39.5%) in the U16 European Championships.

Gorener is the only forward on the roster who can shoot from distance. That brings balance to the offense and allows for more versatility since he can also serve as a small-ball 4 if/when he adds some muscle to his 6-foot-8, 195-pound frame, something he acknowledged he needs to work on.

“I feel like coach (Sean) Miller is going to help me get my defense a lot better and get me a lot stronger,” he told 247Sports.

A unique skill set for his size

Arizona hasn’t had many 6-foot-8 small forwards lately. The only players in the past five years who fit that bill (or are within one inch of it) are Emmanuel Akot and Mark Tollefsen. Ray Smith would have counted too but we know how that went (sigh).

Arizona has generally gone small instead, starting 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 guys like Dylan Smith and Rawle Alkins at the 3.

But Gorener is more of a 3/4 than a 2/3. So throw him into a lineup with guys like Jordan Brown and Christian Koloko and all of a sudden you have the tallest lineup Arizona has trotted out there in quite some time.

What also makes Gorener a rare talent for Arizona is that he is, for now, a 3-point specialist. In his time with Turkey in the FIBA Championships, 78 of his 132 shots (59%) came from behind the arc, including 40 of 54 in the 2019 tournament.

Some Miller-era players who’ve posted seasons with 3-point rates around 59%:

  • Gabe York
  • Brendon Lavender
  • Jamelle Horne
  • Max Hazzard
  • Dylan Smith
  • Elliott Pitts
  • Jemarl Baker Jr.
  • Alex Barcello
  • Parker Jackson-Cartwright
  • Jordin Mayes

Horne (6-foot-7) is the only one taller than 6-foot-5, so at 6-foot-8 Gorener will be a unicorn in this era of Arizona basketball assuming his playing style doesn’t change too much in college.

And then there was one...

How should Arizona use its last scholarship? I will dig into these options later Tuesday but here is the skinny for now:

  1. Sign a grad transfer. Arizona could use a proven player at the 3. Otherwise it will have to rely on three freshmen—Gorener, Terry and Mathurin—or be content with playing small. Another shooter or big man wouldn’t hurt either.
  2. Sign another incoming freshman. The problem is Gorener was Arizona’s last known target.
  3. Sign a multi-year transfer. Arizona has stockpiled quite a bit of talent for 2020-21 by now, so start focusing on the future.
  4. Hold on to it. And use it to bolster the 2021 recruiting class, which could be a lot better than this one. This route also gives Arizona the flexibility to add a midseason transfer like it did when it brought in Stone Gettings and James Akinjo the past two years.