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What the commitments of Azuolas and Tautvilas Tubelis mean for Arizona

2020 NBA All-Star - BWB Camp Photo by Nicole Sweet/NBAE via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats added not one but two more commits to their 2020 class on Wednesday, landing Lithuania twins Azuolas and Tautvilas Tubelis.

Here is what their commitments mean.

Much-needed interior scoring

Other than Jordan Brown, who Sean Miller expects to be a double-figure scorer, the Wildcats needed another scoring option on the block. They also needed another big body.

Azuolas checks both boxes. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward averaged 16.5 points per game in the NKL, Lithuania’s second-best professional league. As an 18-year-old who has already played against grown men, he should be well-prepared for the physicality of the college game.

The lefty can shoot the 3 but does most of his damage around the basket. He has soft touch and hands, and is extremely proficient in the pick-and-roll. A good athlete, Tubelis is also capable of scoring off the dribble, like so:

His free-throw percentage—59.8% in 2019-20—is a concern.

Defensively, Tubelis shows a willingness to contest shots at the rim. With his size and versatility he should be able to man both frontcourt positions at Arizona.

And if he truly is the best international prospect to go the college route in this class like ESPN says he is, he should be a strong candidate to start alongside Brown.

6 international commits from 5 countries is a “total change of direction”

Miller said that a year and a half ago Arizona changed its recruiting philosophy, putting more emphasis on international players. When Miller coached at the FIBA level with Team USA, he said he gained a new appreciation for their game.

“In some years, that may mean we don’t bring a single international player to our program, but what it definitely will mean is we will search and we will look and we will try and find people and players that fit the University of Arizona and what we’re trying to accomplish as a basketball program,” he said.

The Tubelis twins became Arizona’s fifth and sixth international signings, and they come from five different countries, the other four being France (Daniel Batcho), Estonia (Kerr Kriisa), Canada (Bennedict Mathurin) and Turkey (Tibet Gorener).

DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony said in 20 years in the business, he’s never seen so many international recruits in one class.

“A total change of direction and strategy by Sean Miller and his staff,” he tweeted.

In an interview earlier this month, Miller attributed much of Arizona’s international success to associate head coach Jack Murphy. A tight relationship with Murphy is one reason Azuolas committed to Arizona, the Lithuanian told ESPN.

“It’s one thing to get on a flight and fly from here to Vegas. It’s an entirely different picture when you fly from here to Lithuania or the Netherlands or the different places that Jack has gone,” Miller said.

One perceived upside of recruiting international players instead of five-star recruits is that they are more likely to stay in school for multiple years, allowing Arizona to build something that lasts instead of having perpetual major roster turnover.

But Azuolas is good enough to be a one-and-done, and made it clear that he’s focused on his future.

“I believe that college basketball really fits my game, and I can get more exposure going to Arizona,” he told ESPN.

A package deal?

It’s easy to find information about Azuolas. His brother is more of a mystery.

From what I could find, Tautvilas once averaged 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds for Lithuania in the 2018 FIBA U16 European Championships. There, the 6-foot-7 forward played 85 minutes across seven games, shooting 3 for 7 from 3.

This season, Tautvilas appeared in two games for Perlas Vilnius in a junior tournament, going scoreless in seven minutes.

Fair or not, the perception will be that he is not nearly the player his twin is, and that Arizona recruited him in order to land Azuolas, who said he’s excited to play with Tautvilas again.

Arizona State did something similar in its pursuit of five-star wing Josh Christopher by taking on his older brother Caleb, who was barely a top-500 recruit and only played 29 minutes in his freshman season.

Whatever it takes, right?

A scholarship crunch

Adding both Tubelis brothers means Arizona now has 14 players under scholarship for 2020-21, one over the limit. That means someone has to go.

The obvious possibility is sophomore guard Brandon Williams, who recently said he will “definitely” play next season after recovering from knee surgery, “but it’s just a matter of where at this point.”

Those comments were made after he was the only scholarship player Miller did not discuss in a long-winded interview with Brian Jeffries earlier this month. Make of that what you will.

Either way, Arizona is done adding 2020 recruits.

A projected starting lineup

People love starting lineup projections, so here’s mine:

  • G: James Akinjo
  • G: Terrell Brown
  • G: Jemarl Baker Jr.
  • F: Azuolas Tubelis
  • F: Jordan Brown