clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Arizona basketball: In-depth look at the Wildcats’ recruiting classes under Sean Miller

New, 4 comments

A look back at the Stars, the Flops and the Pleasant Surprises from each class during Miller’s tenure

Arizona v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Sean Miller has been at the forefront of college basketball recruiting the last decade as evidenced by the eight top-10 classes he’s brought to Tucson since arriving in the Old Pueblo nine years ago from Xavier.

Miller and his staff have been relentless in their pursuits of the players they feel are worth investing time, energy and ultimately scholarships in with the hopes they will lead to wins.

And like any investment, recruiting is a risk. Sometimes the risk pays off, other times not so much.

Heres a look back at every recruiting class assembled under Miller during his tenure with the Arizona Wildcats to find out which players excelled, fluttered and/or enchanted during their time in college.

Here are the Stars, the Flops and the Pleasant Surprises.


2009 (players in class: 5, National rank: 6)

Solomon Hill, SF, Los Angeles, CA

Kyryl Natyazhko, C , Dnipro, Ukraine

Lamont "MoMo" Jones, PG Laurelton, NY

Kevin Parrom, SF, Brooklyn NY

Derrick Williams, PF, La Mirada, CA

The Star: Derrick Williams

Williams ranked as the No. 72 overall high school prospect in the country by Rivals before committing to Miller and Arizona. Williams played two seasons at UA, and during that time, scored more points (1,227) than any other player in program history in their first two seasons.

Williams averaged 17.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as a Wildcat.

Williams was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a first-team all-Pac-10 selection in 2010. The following season he was named the 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year and was a consensus second-team All-American as a sophomore.

Arizona fans will remember Williams for his outrageous performance against No. 1 seed Duke in the 2011 Sweet Sixteen where he scored 32 points on 64 percent shooting from the field including five for six from 3-point land and a put back dunk that makes highlight reels every year come tournament time. The game helped propel Williams to the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft.

He should be considered as one of Sean Miller’s most successful recruits.

The Flop: Lamont Jones

New York native Lamont “MoMo” Jones was the No. 68 rated prospect in the country and ranked as a four-star recruit coming out of powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Jones averaged 21.3 points and 8 assists per game as a senior in high school.

Jones, who many pegged as the guy who could resurrect the Point Guard U lineage made famous in the Lute Olson era, never could fully live up to the expectations during his time in the desert.

Jones averaged just 8.3 points and 2 assists in 23 minutes per game in two years at Arizona before transferring to Iona after his sophomore season.

The Pleasant Surprise: Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill is a perfect example of a player who benefitted by staying in school to develop his game, and he consequently improved every season.

Hill arrived in Tucson as a four-star player who was about 25 pounds overweight, according to the coaching staff (listed at 230 pounds as a freshman).

Hill spent four years at Arizona and earned back-to-back All-Pac-12 Conference honors his junior and senior year while increasing his averages in points, assists, and minutes played each year. His senior season, Hill averaged 13 points and 2.7 assists per game and emerged as a veteran leader on the team.

Hill was selected with the 23rd pick of the 2013 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers.


2010 (Players in class: 2, National rank: 4)

Daniel Bejarano, G, Phoenix, AZ

Jordin Mayes, SG, Los Angeles, CA

The Star: N/A

Retrospect: The 2010 class was by all accounts a disappointment. The No. 4 ranked class in the nation was highlighted by Mayes (ESPN 92 grade prospect) and Bejarano (ESPN 93 grade, Top 100 player). None of them developed into anything more than a role player off the bench for Arizona.

The Flop: Daniel Bejarano

Local hero, Daniel Bejarano from North High School was a four-time Phoenix metro region player of the year and a 2009-10 first-team "Best in the West" selection by the Long Beach Press-Telegram. The physically gifted guard (6’4”, 205 lbs) was heralded as the gem of the class.

Bejarano never got settled at Arizona and transferred to Colorado State after appearing in just eight games for the Wildcats.

The Pleasant Surprise: N/A

Jordin Mayes had a four-year career at Arizona where he averaged 3.4 points. His best season at the UA was his freshman year where he was a Pac-10 All-Freshman Team Honorable Mention selection. Given his high rating out of high school, his career at Arizona was more underwhelming than pleasantly surprising.


2011 (Players in class: 4, National rank: 8)

Josiah Turner, PG, Sacramento, CA

Nick Johnson, SG, Gilbert, AZ

Angelo Chol, PF, San Diego, CA

Sidiki Johnson, PF, Bronx, NY

The Star: Nick Johnson

Findlay Prep High School product Nick Johnson was the No. 40 ranked prospect in the 2011 class with a 96 grade rating by ESPN. The 6-foot-2 combo guard tantalized fans and coaches alike with his combination of speed, strength, and athleticism.

Johnson put together quite the three-year résumé at the UA and was the catalyst for some of Miller’s best teams. The Gilbert native earned All-Pac-12 Freshman Team honors in 2011, was a First-Team All-Pac12 selection, named Pac-12 Player of the Year and a First Team All-American/Wooden Award finalist his Junior year—with a Pac-12 All Defensive Team nod to boot.

Johnson averaged 12.3 points, 2.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds in his three years as a Wildcat while leading Arizona to 83 wins, a Sweet Sixteen and an Elite Eight.

Johnson was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets.

The Flop(s): Josiah Turner, Sidiki Johnson

Josiah Turner and Sidiki Johnson arrived in Tucson as two of the most highly anticipated recruits under Sean Miller at the time.

Tuner, a dynamic scorer from Sacramento, was one of the best point guards in the 2011 class and billed by experts as the next great college guard. Sidiki Johnson, out of Oak Hill Academy, had a 92 grade rating from ESPN and was one of the most physically imposing power forwards in the country at 6-foot-8, 220 pounds out of the Bronx, NY.

Both players lasted one season in Tucson and both dealt with their fair share of off the court troubles.

Turner left the team after reports that the point guard had drug and alcohol problems. It was discovered later that he had an extreme DUI charge in 2012 while still on the team.

He averaged 6.8 points his lone year at U of A.

Sidiki Johnson was suspended indefinitely for violations of team policies after his first year and transferred out of Tucson shortly after. And now he’s in prison.

The Pleasant Surprise: N/A

Retrospect: If it weren’t for Nick Johnson this class would be seen as a complete disaster for Miller. Angelo Chol transferred out of Arizona after two seasons.


2012 (Players in class: 4, National rank: 3)

Kaleb Tarczewski, C, Claremont, NH

Grant Jerrett, PF, La Verne, CA

Brandon Ashley, PF, Oakland, CA

Gabe York, SG, Orange, CA

The Star: Kaleb Tarczewski

Many people don’t know this, but Kaleb Tarczewski was Sean Miller’s highest rated recruit ever when he committed to Arizona over Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. Tarczewski was the fourth-ranked prospect in the country by ESPN and a consensus top-10 player on nearly every recruiting site in 2012.

The four-year starter won’t be remembered as the greatest player in program history, but Tarczewski is Arizona’s all-time leader in wins and was in may ways the foundation for some of Miller’s best teams. In four years ‘Zues’ enjoyed a ridiculous unofficial win/loss record of 119-26.

Tarczweski finished his career at Arizona ranking in the top seven all-time in games played, games started, rebounds and blocks with appearances in one Sweet Sixteen, and two Elite Eights.

The Flop: Grant Jerrett

Five-star power forward Grant Jerrett was a top-10 recruit (97 grade rating by ESPN) who generated a lot of buzz as a smooth shooting stretch big man with huge upside.

After a mediocre freshman campaign where he averaged 5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds in 17 minutes per game, Jerrett opted to leave school and enter the NBA Draft where he was picked in the second round by Portland.

Jerrett’s decision to leave school after one year still boggles the minds of UA fans today.

Here is his one-minute-long highlight video from college. Enjoy!

The Pleasant Surprise: Gabe York

Like Tarczewski, York won a record number of games in college over four seasons at Arizona.

The sharpshooting guard out of California was the No. 65 rated prospect in the nation before signing with Arizona.

York’s ability to get hot from behind the arc was his biggest weapon. He will be remembered most for the night he tied the McKale Center record for most made 3-pointers in a game (9) against Stanford on Senior Day in 2016.

Sean Miller has credited York for his unselfishness and willingness to sacrifice playing time. A lot of four-star prospects would have transferred out given the lack of minutes York got his first three seasons (19 mpg).


2013 (Players in class: 3, National rank: 11)

Aaron Gordon, SF, San Jose, CA

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Chester, CA

Elliot Pitts, SG, Concord, CA

The Star: Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon is without a doubt one of Sean Miller’s most hyped recruits ever coming out of high school and for good reason. His official high school mixtape has over 5 million views on YouTube. In it, a 16-year-old Gordon displays a firing line of tomahawks, windmills, alley-oops, poster dunks and just about anything else that requires him throwing a basketball through a hoop. It’s one of the best high school mixtapes out there.

The ultra athletic Gordon was rated as the No. 4 ranked player in the 2013 class.

He was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, a First Team-All Pac-12 selection and a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year award.

He averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds in 31 mpg as a Freshman.

Gordon was the fourth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. He was the runner-up in 2016 NBA Dunk Contest.

The Flop: Elliot Pitts

Pitts gets the flop recognition not because he was a highly rated player who couldn’t live up to his ranking. The four-star SG out of California was pegged as a ‘3 and D’ type player who never developed into a consistent shooter or defender in his two full seasons at Arizona.

Pitts averaged 2.8 points and 1 rebound per game for Arizona in 69 total games.

Pitts was limited to just 7 games his junior season after being suspended by the team for a university finding of sexual misconduct and other infractions of student behavioral rules.

Pitts transferred to a junior college in 2016.

The Pleasant Surprise: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

There aren’t many players who won over the hearts of Arizona fans and teammates more than Hollis-Jefferson.

Whether it was the instant burst of energy he brought off the bench in games, the relentless hustle on both ends of the court, the now infamous “shimmy” routine before free throws, or the intermission impromptu dancing during timeouts, Rondae liked to have fun.

And his attitude made him fun to watch.

The 6-foot-7 five-star wing from Chester, Pennsylvania came into college basketball without being great at anything particular. He could not shoot well, he wasn’t a great passer, and he put up average rebounding numbers. Beyond being a superior athlete, Hollis-Jefferson’s success on the court came from a sheer personal desire to compete.

What made Rondae special was his ability to make winning plays. The timely offensive rebounds, the steals, the blocked shots. Hollis-Jefferson was always in good positions on the floor to make plays.

Plus he was always good for a monstrous momentum-gaining dunk.

Hollis-Jefferson was First Team All-Pac-12 in 2015, a Pac-12 All Defensive Team selection and an All-Freshman Pac-12 Team honoree in 2014. Hollis-Jefferson went to two straight Elite Eights at Arizona.

He was the 23rd pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers and was later traded to the Brooklyn Nets.


2014 (Players in class: 4, National rank: 3)

Stanley Johnson, SF, Fullerton, CA

Craig Victor, PF, New Orleans, LA

Parker Jackson-Cartwright, PG, Los Angeles, CA

Dusan Ristic, C, Novi Sad, Serbia

The Star: Stanley Johnson

Stanley Johnson was the best player on the best high school team in the country (Mater Dei) that won four straight state titles in California. The No. 7 ranked prospect in the 2014 class was the quick fix solution for Arizona, who had just lost Aaron Gordon to the pros the year before after an Elite Eight run.

Johnson did not disappoint.

The behemoth wing (6-foot-7, 240 pounds) bullied his way to a breakout freshman campaign where he finished the season ranked third on UA’s freshman charts in total points (523) and steals (57) and averaged a team-high 13.8 points to go along with 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Johnson was named a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection, a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honoree, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, a Third-Team All-American and the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year during his one season at the UA.

Johnson was the eighth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons.

The Flop: Craig Victor

Big man Craig Victor was a highly rated power forward out of New Orleans and attended high school at Nevada powerhouse Findlay Prep.

While Victor showed decent promise in limited minutes early on in exhibition games for the Wildcats, he was never going to be satisfied with playing time.

Victor transferred out of Arizona after playing only eight games with the team averaging 3 points and 1 rebound per game in 7 minutes per game. He ended up at LSU where he was later kicked off the team for violation of team rules.

The Pleasant Surprise: Dusan Ristic

The recruitment of Dusan Ristic is an example of why Sean Miller is considered one of the best recruiters in college basketball.

Sure he gets the big name recruits, but he also gets players who get overlooked and just need time to develop their game.

Ristic was a relatively unknown prospect from Serbia playing high school basketball for Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas. His only other D1 offer was from the University of Nebraska.

Blessed with soft hands and an arsenal of low post offensive moves, Miller understood the foundation that would make Ristic a great college player was there and the other things holding him back (mainly his body and lack of physicality on defense) would ultimately come in time.

In three seasons with Arizona, Ristic is averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and has gradually improved his numbers from season to season.

Ristic will be a senior this season for an Arizona team that will again be loaded with talent. Look for Ristic to get a heavy dose of touches next year with fellow big man DeAndre Ayton able to stretch the floor and create space. The two will make a great one-two punch and give opposing team’s bigs a matchup nightmare.


2015 (Players in class: 4, National Rank: 3)

Allonzo Trier, SG, Seattle, WA

Ray Smith, SF, Las Vegas, NV

Justin Simon, PG, Temecula, CA

Chance Comanche, C, Beverly Hills, CA

The Star: Allonzo Trier

When Allonzo Trier was 13 years old he graced the cover of The New York Times magazine for a profile piece that pegged him as the “top-ranked sixth-grade player in the nation.”

He has been in the spotlight ever since.

Trier was the 18th ranked prospect and a consensus top-five guard in the class of 2015 and the prized jewel of another strong recruiting class under Miller.

Limited by a hand injury his first season, Trier missed seven conference games but still managed to average nearly 15 points per game, including a 27-point performance against Fresno State, which was the most points scored by an Arizona freshman since Derrick Williams scored 28 against UNLV in 2009. Trier was named to the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team his first season.

Trier missed 19 games his sophomore season after failing a drug test that revealed traces of some kind of NCAA banned PED. Once he was eligible to play, Trier led Arizona in scoring at 17.2 points per game and was the named the Most Outstanding Player of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Trier will return for his junior season next year and expectations are high that he can lead Arizona and Sean Miller to that coveted first Final Four.

The Flop: Ray Smith

Ray Smith suffered three different ACL tears in two different knees in three consecutive years.

And in between each of those injuries was months and months of tireless rehabbing and strength training.

In high school, Smith was an explosive athlete from Las Vegas. The four-star prospect was trending up when he committed to the Wildcats in 2015 after developing a promising mid range jump shot to go along with his ability to play above the rim.

After a knee injury kept him out of his senior season of high school, Ray arrived in Tucson eager to finish up his rehab and get back on the court for the start of his freshman season.

After being cleared to practice Smith showed good signs in practice and caught the eye of Sean Miller who said, “Ray Smith is one of the most talented young players that has ever entered our program.”

Smith suffered another season-ending knee injury weeks before the start of the season. The following year Smith tore his ACL again for a third and final time in Arizona’s first non-conference game of the season.

The last knee injury ended Smith’s career. He decided to retire from basketball shortly after.

The Pleasant Surprise: Ray Smith

Although Smith is no longer playing basketball. he continues to make a positive impact with the team. Smith is a high character kid who was dealt a terrible situation and never let it get him down. He remains a leader in the locker room and will continue to work towards his degree at U of A.


2016 (Players in class: 3, National Rank: 9)

Lauri Markkanen, PF, Vantaa, Finland

Kobi Simmons, G, Alpharetta, GA

Rawle Alkins, SF, Brooklyn, NY

The Star: Lauri Markkanen

When five-star forward T.J. Leaf decommitted from Arizona in the summer before the 2016-17 season, Sean Miller and his staff needed to regroup and figure out how to fill the newly gaping void in the frontcourt.

Little did anyone know the answer to the problem was over 5,000 miles away.

Lauri Markkanen was a relatively unknown international prospect from Finland. Markkanen ended up choosing Arizona over North Carolina and Utah and the rest is history.

In his one season in the Old Pueblo, Markkanen shot his way up UA freshman scoring records (literally and figuratively). He finished the season with 69 made three-point field goals (3rd), a .423 three-point field goal percentage (6th), 137 made free throws (3rd), a .835 free throw percentage (4th) and 266 total rebounds (3rd).

Markkanen finished the season averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. He was voted a Third-Team All-American, a Pac-12 All Freshman team selection and First Team All-Pac-12.

Markkanen was the seventh pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Minnesota and was later traded to the Chicago Bulls.

The Flop: Kobi Simmons

Kobi Simmons’ had a tremendous start to the 2016 season but then it got progressively worse, and when Trier got back from suspension Simmons became almost nonexistent.

The former five-star McDonalds High School All American averaged 8.7 points, 1.8 assists per game at Arizona.

Simmons enjoyed some good moments early on in the season -- notably carrying a good portion of the scoring load while Trier served is suspension.

Simmons had a ‘coming out party’ of sorts in Arizona’s first big nationally televised game of the season against Michigan State in Hawaii. The freshman scored 18 points in that game.

Here’s how much his production dropped off after Trier’s return:

Simmons numbers before Trier: 11.7 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds in 27 minutes per game.

Simmons numbers after Trier: 5.9 points, 1.5 assists, 1 rebound in 16 minutes per game.

In the NCAA Tournament, Simmons averaged 3.6 points, 0 assists and 1 rebound in 8 minutes per game.

The Pleasant Surprise: Rawle Alkins

Alkins started raising eyebrows in Tucson at the Red and Blue game when he somehow convinced Sean Miller to be a prop in a dunk contest.

The 6-foot-5, 220 pound five-star guard from Brooklyn was a late addition to the 2017 class and turned out to be one of the most important.

Alkins was one of Arizona’s most consistent players last season. He scored 10 or more points 22 different times as a freshman, including a period where he tallied 13 double-digit scoring games in a 15-game stretch. He averaged 11 points per game last year.

Alkins also rebounded at a high rate all season, and as a guard was one of Arizona’s best rebounders averaging five a game.

‘King Rawle’ decided to return to school for another season after testing his value with NBA advisors. His return sets Arizona up nicely for another deep tournament run. Look for Alkins to become more of a leader this year.


2017 (Players in class: 5, National rank: 3)

DeAndre Ayton, PF, Nassau, Bahamas

Brandon Randolph, SG, Yonkers, NY

Emmanuel Akot, SF, Winnipeg, CAN

Ira Lee, PF, Los Angeles, CA

Alex Barcello, SG, Phoenix, AZ

The highly anticipated 2017-18 class could be one of Sean Miller’s best. The gem of the class is DeAndre Ayton, who many believe will be a top-five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. It’s too early to assign a designation to individual players in this class.

NOTE: Players who transferred into the program from another university or junior college will not be considered for this list. However players who originally committed to Arizona and then transferred to another program are eligible. Notable players NOT eligible include T.J. McConnell, Mark Lyons, Jesse Perry, Kadeem Allen, Ryan Anderson, Keanu Pinder, Dylan Smith, Chase Jeter and Zach Peters.