Could one Pac-12 school’s loss be another’s gain?
2018 five-star forward Taeshon Cherry decommitted from the USC Trojans last week, and the Arizona Wildcats were one of Cherry’s eight finalists before the El Cajon, Calif. native chose the Trojans in late June.
Could Arizona land him this time around?
It might solely depend on Cherry’s reasoning for reneging on his commitment to USC, which has not been reported.
Like Arizona, USC was implicated in the recruiting bribery and corruption scandal that was unearthed by the FBI in September.
USC has ruled guard De’Anthony Melton ineligible for his role in the mess, and if Cherry’s decommitment had anything to do with his uncertainty of the direction of USC’s program, that would likely rule Arizona out for him as well.
If that was not Cherry’s reasoning for backing out, then the Wildcats could be one of the schools in the running for the five-star prospect (though it is unclear if they plan to pursue him again).
Sean Miller said Arizona plans to sign four players in its 2018 class, which means two more are expected to join before signing day in the spring.
Arizona has the room to add Cherry, and the 6-foot-8 forward would have an opportunity to play major minutes immediately with the Wildcats, assuming he can beat out guys like Shareef O’Neal, Ira Lee, and Emmanuel Akot for playing time.
So the fit is there, but again, if the FBI probe is what turned Cherry off USC, then Arizona probably doesn’t have much of a chance to land him, especially since there are several other schools — Florida State, Gonzaga, Oregon, San Diego State, Texas A&M and UCLA — that he was considering before committing to USC that were not involved in the scandal.
Cherry is the USC recruit identified as Player-8 in the federal criminal complaint against Trojans associate head coach Tony Bland, according to a report from the LA Times.
“I just feel like USC decided that anybody associated with Tony Bland is probably someone they didn’t want to be associated with,” Cherry’s grandfather, Paul Phipps, told the LA Times. “My grandson is a great kid. He certainly has not done anything that in any way would jeopardize his eligibility in any way to be at USC. The fact they have really backed away from him is disappointing.
“It’s like the hangover from Reggie Bush has left USC so risk intolerant. I get it. I’m a big USC guy. But come on.”
If the LA Times’ report is true, it’s hard to imagine Arizona will pursue Cherry.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire