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Sean Miller discusses Arizona’s international recruits for first time

Xavier v Arizona - Practice Photo by Paul Dye/J and L Photography/Getty Images

Sean Miller conducted a 37-minute interview with longtime Arizona Wildcats radio staple Brian Jeffries on Thursday where he made his first public comments about UA’s four international recruits.

But first Miller heaped praise on interim assistant coach David Miller (no relation) and associate head coach Jack Murphy for being the driving forces behind all those commitments.

“Those two guys have really given their heart and soul to the international recruiting,” Sean Miller said. “About a year and a half ago, we changed our philosophy to try to really implement the international game as part of every class. 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.”

Miller added: “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 the Jack has gone.”

Arizona has had success with international players before, mostly recently producing guys like Josh Green, Dusan Ristic, Deandre Ayton and Lauri Markkanen.

Miller said he gained an incredible amount of respect for the international game when he coached Team USA’s under-18 squad in the FIBA championships.

“I recognize not only the great talent that’s in the international game, but the the amazing skill level and coaching,” he said. “I think these there’s a number of players that come to us, having played in international tournaments, playing with a 24-second shot clock, a deeper 3-point line, which is now our 3-point line. You saw this year the difference in percentages, right? These guys have played with the international line their entire lives, so we want to mix in the international brand of basketball whenever it makes sense for both them and for us.”

Miller said Arizona could still add or two more international players in the 2020 recruiting cycle. But for now here are his comments on the ones Arizona has already signed.

Miller on French post Daniel Batcho: “Well, first thing I want to address is I think it’s been reported that Daniel had suffered a torn ACL at some point and had recovered and played this past year. That’s not true. He had a fractured kneecap, which is a much, I don’t want to say better injury, but structurally it’s certainly a different ballgame. So he’s not recovering from a torn ACL or MCL. He sustained that kneecap injury but he’s fully recovered and we’re anxious and excited to eventually get him here on campus.

“But Daniel is a physical 6-foot-10 forward/center. I think he could play both positions for us. He’s aggressive. He’s a very good defensive rebounder, adept at FIBA basketball ball where pick-and-roll and playing up and down, being able to defend pick-and-rolls, those are things that he’s been doing for a number of years. Hungry guy, a guy that loves the game. Really excited to have him.

Miller on Estonian point guard Kerr Kriisa: “Kerr is just an amazing playmaker. If you watch him play in the variety of FIBA tournaments and with the different teams that he’s played on, the one thing that always holds true with him is he makes the right play. He loves to pass the ball. I love his ability to shoot. He is a deadly 3-point shooter when left open, but in the open court, playing pick-and-roll basketball, playing in transition.

“And because Kerr is I would say every bit 6-foot-2, maybe 6-foot-3, that he could be on the court with a variety of players. The days of just playing a point guard, two big wings, a power forward and a center are over. You want to put your best players on the court. I think this year our best players a lot of times we’ll have lineups that have three guards that play different styles. And Kerr is somebody that we’re really excited about.

“I also love his competitive spirit. The one thing that we’re in search of moving forward is... do they love the game? Is it really important to them? And do they win where they’re at? Like, are they a competitor they do they know how to win? Do they play with great effort, spirit and energy? Those types of players continue to get better. And I think that our McKale crowd and the people who love and invest in our program, you fall in love with them as players because you know they’re always giving you their heart and soul. I think Kerr and Daniel both represent that.

Miller on Canadian wing Bennedict Mathurin: “We’re very fortunate to get Ben. We were in a very tough battle. We didn’t know if we were going to get him or not. He had a lot of schools that really wanted to join his recruiting. Again, we were fortunate that we identified him early on. Jack Murphy did an outstanding job of identifying him and really recruiting him with a lot of energy. Baylor was involved for a long period of time, and because we played against Baylor each of the last two years and they beaten us, we tend to respect those types of programs. And when you think about Baylor’s guards, and some of the things that we played against, I think you really get that with Ben.

“Some of the great wings that we’ve had at Arizona, athleticism, guys who thrive in the open court, Ben is every bit 6-foot-5, maybe 6-foot-6. He finishes above the rim. I think he’s a very good shooter with a chance to be even better. But a guy who can play pick-and roll-basketball and can do a lot of different things. I would say the difference is from an athleticism perspective, he’s like a lot of guys that we’ve seen at Arizona who’ve played the wing position, Josh Green being one of them that thrives in the open court, a high flyer and as he continues to get more skilled and learn the game, the sky’s the limit for Ben. So we’re really thrilled to have him.”

Miller on Turkish forward Tibet Gorener: “Like Christian Koloko, who was in the United States each of the last couple of years before he came to Arizona...(Tibet) played at Orange Lutheran High School this past year. Gabe York’s from Orange Lutheran, so we were able to be familiar with him, watched him closely throughout the year. He also played in FIBA for his country and a lot of tournaments that somebody like Kerr would have played in. And watching him play FIBA basketball, watching him play here most recently at Orange Lutheran, I think you see the guy is highly skilled. He shoots the basketball, off the catch, off the move, really has a great feel for moving without the ball.

“And I think as he gets bigger and stronger physically, that’s when you’re going to see the best for Tibet. And that’s something we pride ourselves in. If you just watch Christian Koloko’s body change in the brief year he’s been with us, it’s amazing. And I think Tibet will experience similar types of growth. It’s important for me to also address that Tibet is 6-foot-8. He’s not 6-foot-4, 6-foot 5, even 6-foot-6 like Ben is. Tibet is more 6-foot-8, so he could play either the 3 or the 4. But no doubt what he brings to the table day one is his ability to play the game the right way, pass, move without the ball and shoot from the 3-point line.”