College basketball’s early-signing period begins Nov. 8, but Sean Miller doesn’t know if the Arizona Wildcats will be signing either of their two 2018 commits that day — or anytime soon.
“I don’t and I’m not able to comment beyond that right now until we get through this week,” he said Tuesday at his weekly presser.
When asked if he expects Arizona to be more active during the spring signing period than the early-signing period, Miller said “I think so.”
Of course, Arizona’s recruiting is in limbo right now due to the program’s involvement in a recruiting bribery scandal.
Five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly decommitted in October, while several top-10 prospects eliminated Arizona from consideration after the FBI’s investigation went public.
At one point, Miller said he expected Arizona to sign five to seven players in its 2018 class, but in October — shortly after the investigation went public — he said that he’s “not sure” how many prospects the Wildcats will sign.
Four-star recruits Shareef O’Neal and Brandon Williams recently took their official visits to Tucson, and remain committed, but there will continue to be some skepticism about their future at the UA until they sign their National Letters of Intent, which apparently won’t be in November.
Williams’ father told Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star that his son won’t sign in the fall because of the investigation.
Arizona hosts NAU on Friday at 6 p.m. in its season-opener, and Miller said he has a lot of respect for NAU coach Jack Murphy.
“He’s been a great friend to me, and to our program really from day one until now,” Miller said.
Murphy is a familiar face for Arizona fans, as he was on Lute Olson’s staff from 1998-2006, serving as a student manager, recruiting analyst, and director of operations among other things.
“It’s always tough to play against somebody who you really like a lot and respect, but I’m excited about playing NAU because it’s right on a lot of levels — two in-state schools get a chance to square off on the opening night of college basketball, so we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Miller said. “... We have four days to get ready. Hopefully we can improve and be at our best Friday night.”
Miller said Friday’s opener is an “incredible opportunity” for the Wildcats to continue improving.
“In our case with so many new faces, like you witnessed from the first exhibition game until the second, there can be a night-and-day dramatic difference in the group because of how young we are,” he said. “That’s our focus.”
Speaking of night-and-day differences, that’s how Miller described Parker Jackson-Cartwright’s return to the floor Sunday.
The senior had 14 points, four assists and three rebounds in 28 minutes, shooting 4-4 from the field, 2-2 from 3, and 4-6 from the free throw line as he returned from an ankle sprain that kept him out of Wednesday’s exhibition.
“Like Allonzo (Trier), he has overcome injuries almost every year and I think we’re going to see the best version of him as a player (this year),” Miller said. “We did the other day. His ability to make the other four players better really stands out when you watch him out there.”
Miller said he doesn’t know too much about the Lumberjacks. NAU added eight newcomers this offseason, including former Stanford guard Malcolm Allen.
“That’s the hard part of the season-opener,” Miller said. “You don’t really have a lot, but we’ll do the best we can of being the most ready that we can be.”
When asked what Ira Lee’s best attributes are as a player, Miller praised Lee’s motor.
“Ira really brings that mindset to practice. Wherever he is as a player today, he’ll be better in the future,” he said. “He made a couple jumpshots — 17-footers — in the last game, which I was happy to see, because he can really do that and he’s worked hard at his shooting. Even before he came to Arizona, but he’s always the last to gym or one of the last guys to leave the gym or one of the first guys to arrive.
“I think mostly what he does is bring a lot of energy. He can check the box in a lot of areas. He rebounds at both ends, he defends.”
Lee said he has been lifting a lot and has added 20 pounds of muscle since arriving at Arizona.
The freshman said Arizona has been everything he expected so far, and is embracing UA’s competitive practice environment, saying “metal sharpens metal”
“We know everyone can score and everyone on this team can defend,” Lee said. “There’s going to be guys that have 20 (points), there’s going to be guys that have 5. It’s going to change each night, but I think we’ve all accepted that.”
Lee had four points and six rebounds in 19 minutes against Chico State on Sunday.
Last season Arizona opened its regular season in Hawaii against Michigan State. Miller prefers to start at home.
“If an opportunity presents itself on the opening weekend that doesn’t have us here, then we’ll take advantage of it, but for the most part, I think we all like to start off in McKale and get used to our home crowd,” he said.
Miller is glad Arizona has three games, instead of two, before it heads to the Bahamas for Battle 4 Atlantis.
“Being able to get three games in instead of two prior to going to the Bahamas is something we set out to do,” he said.
Miller said he has already identified some of Arizona’s strengths: scoring at the 4 and 5 positions, Deandre Ayton’s passing (and talent as a whole), Allonzo Trier, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, and the collective hard-working attitude of the freshman class.
Miller said Trier is “well-deserving” of being a preseason All-American.
“He doesn’t just score. He’s more efficient than he ever has been. He’s an improved defensive player and we continue to challenge him in that area,” Miller said.
“He’s made some great passes. He can play in the confines of the team game better than ever. So I’m exciting for him. It would be great to have Allonzo from start to finish, and if he’s able do that, I think we’re going to have an exceptional player and somebody who’s going to put together a great season.”
Miller isn’t sure if Brandolph Randolph (concussion) will return Friday vs. NAU. More on that can be found here.
Arizona likely won’t be redshirting any players this year, Miller said.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire