California Dreaming: How Arizona is taking over the Golden State

6 Oct

Photo: Getty Images

By Brian Flinn
National Hoops Report        

Just a few short years ago, legendary Arizona coach Lute Olson decided to hang them up. The Wildcats had reached new heights under their longtime head coach, and after controversy, illness, and a drop off in production, the team that had once made the NCAA’s 25 times in a row ceased to exist.

What was Arizona’s answer to replacing such a legend? Hiring Xavier coach Sean Miller.

Xavier has had a history of being a launching pad for good young coaches, producing the likes of Skipp Prosser, Thad Matta, and Miller. Within his first season as the new boss for the Wildcats, Miller had proven that Arizona would be a power on the recruiting trail, despite a disappointing 16-15 record that year.

While Miller has gotten top players from all over the country, recently he has set his eyes on the fertile recruiting area that is California. What makes this foray into the area more interesting is that fellow PAC-12 teams UCLA, Cal, USC, and Stanford all reside in the state as well, meaning the Wildcats are doing a lot of recruiting in their neighbors’ backyards.

The pipeline from California emerged this past season with Miller getting top point guard Josiah Turner to come to Tucson as well as fellow top 100 prospect Angelo Chol. Turner was the best player in the class of 2011 to come out of California, and Chol was the second best big man to come from the state. While those two should team with fellow freshmen Nick Johnson and Sidiki Johnson to form a solid nucleus this season, its next year’s class that have Arizona fans really excited.

Three top 50 players in the class of 2012 have already committed to Arizona, and all of them are from California. Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett are two of the top big men in the country as well as the two best players in the state. Gabe York is a talented combo guard who is the third best player and best guard coming out of California this season.

To put it bluntly, Arizona has put a stranglehold on recruiting California. It is worth mentioning that the Wildcats are also involved with center Robert Upshaw, the fourth best player in the state. While Upshaw seems to be a backup plan if Arizona can’t land Kaleb Twarzewski, it would be impressive if they were able to land the top 4 players in the state.

So why the sudden dominance of Arizona in California?

Stanford has had problems returning to the level they were once at when the Lopez twins were roaming the paint. USC is still dealing with controversy sparked by Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo, and UCLA will always have the image of a team that doesn’t let its players reach their potential under Ben Howland. Cal is a solid program that has yet to make the jump to be a consistent contender in March, and until they do, it will be hard to lure in the top recruits in the state.

The recruiting area that is California is up for grabs right now, and Arizona is making a serious push to take over as the top dogs in the conference because they recruiting the state so well.

Look for Miller and company to continue to pull top prospects out of the state as long as he is the boss there. If the Wildcats can do that, it might be another 25 years before they miss the tournament again.

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One Response to “California Dreaming: How Arizona is taking over the Golden State”

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