Apparently Tommy Lloyd can recruit at a high level.
The commitment of five-star ‘24 forward Carter Bryant last week was a big one for Arizona. He chose the Wildcats over Louisville (and the many other schools that wanted him) and provided a positive development for a program that has been relatively quiet since the season ended.
But reports of Arizona’s recruiting demise were likely overblown to begin with, fueled by a stressed out and impatient fan base. That the Wildcats have yet to add anything through the transfer portal was viewed by many as an indictment on the first-time coach, proof that he just isn’t the kind of recruiter that can get the job done in Tucson.
Even if he hadn’t landed Bryant, it would have been premature to make such a claim.
Nevertheless, questions will surround Lloyd—the coach who has guided Arizona to a 61-11 record with a pair of Pac-12 Tournament titles in two seasons—until he shows he can do everything fans are hoping to see.
That means he has to recruit at a high level, add talent via the transfer portal, win a lot of games and, oh yeah, go deep into the NCAA Tournament. Like, Final Four deep.
Not too much to ask, right?
The truth is, those kind of expectations should be placed on Lloyd. Arizona is the type of program that should demand results and refuse to settle for anything less. Just, for many it seems to have been all too easy to ignore what Lloyd has accomplished as he is still settling into being a head coach.
It’s also easy to forget the previous coach’s early struggles in recruiting.
Sean Miller’s first class was great, with him being aided by USC’s implosion and the surprising ascension of Derrick Williams. But after that?
The 2010 group of Daniel Bejarano, Jordin Mayes and Jesse Perry was not exactly one to remember. The class of 2011 wasn’t much better, because while Nick Johnson was great for various reasons none of Josiah Turner, Angelo Chol or Sidiki Johnson did much of anything for the Wildcats.
It wasn’t until the class of 2012, Miller’s fourth with Arizona, where the coach really started to hit his stride on the recruiting trail.
And Miller did not have to manage recruiting in the era of the transfer portal and NIL. And even with all the talent he brought to Tucson, the Final Four remained elusive.
So, like, maybe give Lloyd a little time to figure things out and show what he’s capable of, both as a roster builder and a coach?
The landscape is quite a bit different than it was back in the day.
“If you follow recruiting for any high-level program, everyone’s all over the place. This is how it is right now,” he told the Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe. “Things will settle down. When the COVID eligibility wraps up, and the transfer portal and NIL all get figured out, maybe there’ll become a standard way of doing business. But there isn’t right now.”
That’s not to say others aren’t having immediate success in this new world, but that likely has to do with the amount of money being offered via NIL. There are a couple of collectives set up to benefit Arizona—including Arizona Assist—but there does not to be the kind of collective that has Scrooge McDuck kind of money to just throw around.
Is that a challenge Arizona is dealing with? Most likely, yeah.
But is it a challenge that cannot be overcome or, in time, will not morph into something a bit more manageable?
Therein lies the question.
Thankfully if there is one thing Arizona fans are known for it’s their patience, so Lloyd should have plenty of time to build and coach up a roster that is perfect for his system and style all while learning from any mistakes he may make early in his head coaching tenure.
At any rate, Lloyd and Arizona are in an interesting spot now. Expectations are high after what’s been accomplished the last two seasons, but so too is angst due to how the team has fallen short.
Not just the last two seasons, but in the two decades that preceded his being named head coach.
The program’s drought is not entirely on Lloyd, of course. But while he is still relatively new to the job he is carrying the weight of failures that preceded him. It’s not exactly fair and one can argue it doesn’t make much sense.
Unfortunately every early exit, every painful loss, every “what-if” — those earned by him and those earned by the coaches that preceded him — hangs over Lloyd and will continue to do so until he has the Wildcats playing in the sport’s final weekend.