Arizona Basketball notes: CBS reporting Ashley going pro, USF forward considering UA


Brandon Ashley is turning pro according to a report (ESPN screen shot)

Brandon Ashley is turning pro according to a report (ESPN screen shot)

Mark Tollefson

Mark Tollefson

Notes about Arizona’s basketball program while wondering if the Wildcats will be more loaded with talent next year than this year. …

— CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein reported a couple of newsworthy items today that impact Arizona in 2015-16. … First, Rothstein tweeted that San Francisco forward Mark Tollefson, who will be a senior next year, is considering Arizona along with four other Pac-12 schools. … He then reported, citing sources, that Arizona junior forward Brandon Ashley will forego his senior season and enter the NBA draft.

— The university has called a press conference for 4 p.m. tomorrow with Arizona coach Sean Miller and sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. It is at that time that Hollis-Jefferson is widely expected to turn pro. Miller said of Hollis-Jefferson and senior guard T.J. McConnell after the Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin: “We’re going to miss them. We really are.”

— The next domino to fall will likely be Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Stanley Johnson, although Rothstein reported that Johnson is “torn” between returning to Arizona for one more season or going pro. Rothstein writes: “If Johnson returned to Tucson, he’d be a legitimate national player of the year candidate and an easy choice as a preseason all-american. The Wildcats went 34-4 this past season.” Johnson is a unanimous lottery pick selection by most draft prognosticators.

Kaleb Tarczewski? Already admitted into Arizona’s prestigious Eller College of Management, Tarczewski probably is weighing his academics as much as his basketball career in his decision to return for his senior season.

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— What do the people who get paid to analyze the NBA draft think of the prospects of Hollis-Jefferson, Ashley, Johnson and Tarczewski? Judging from the following graphic, Johnson should go, Hollis-Jefferson appears ready and Ashley and Tarczewski should think long and hard about turning pro:

DN: ESPN’s Chad Ford/Cons: Consensus. A total of 60 picks (30 in each round) will be made in NBA draft.

Player DN DE CF Cons
Stanley Johnson 8 9 11 10
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 29 22 25 25
Brandon Ashley 40
Kaleb Tarczewski 57

— ESPN’s draft expert Chad Ford does not rate Ashley or Tarczewski among his top 100 prospects. Ford, who gets his information from NBA scouts, ranks Tarczewski as the No. 103 overall prospect and No. 17 center. Ford rates Ashley as the No. 31 power forward and No. 147 prospect overall.

Ford writes of Ashley in a March 17 report: “(He) is a bit of a tweener and has earned the ‘soft’ label from scouts. He’s athletic and can stretch the floor, but they want to see him play more in the paint.” Ford lists as Ashley’s negatives: Strength, lack of refinement in the post, footwork and motor/toughness.

He writes of Tarczewski: “Despite having an NBA body and athleticism, lacks consistency and toughness.” Tarczewski’s negatives according to Ford: Needs to diversify his offensive game, not a great shot-blocker, lacks great basketball IQ and can have some temper issues.

Ford must be confusing basketball IQ for Tarczewski’s hand-to-eye coordination. Tarczewski’s temper issues? Must be because of some elbows he has inadvertently landed on opponents. Tarczewski has the most foul-outs (12) of any Arizona player in the Pac-10/12 era but that does not translate to an out-of-control temper. Tarczewski may be reckless, but not temperamental.

— With McConnell and Matt Korcheck exhausting their eligibility and Ashley, Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson likely turning pro, that leaves Miller with seven returning scholarship players (if Tarczewski returns). That gives him and his staff six spots to fill for the 2015-16 season.

Four incoming recruits have already signed their letters of intent, including center Chance Comanche, combo guard Justin Simon, small forward Ray Smith and shooting guard Allonzo Trier.

Therefore, potentially three scholarship spots remain to be filled. High-profile frontcourt players Stephen Zimmerman and Ivan Rabb have yet to make a commitment. Other than Tollefson, Arizona reportedly is also interested in immediate-eligible transfer Tyler Harris, a power forward from Providence.

Tollefson will graduate with a degree in advertising this spring and be able to take graduate courses at another university that San Francisco does not provide. Harris, who played at North Carolina State his freshman year in 2011-12, will earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Providence this spring and have one year of eligibility remaining.

Tollefson, 6’9 and 200 pounds, was the Dons’ leading scorer 13 times, including an 18-point effort against Gonzaga. He led his team in rebounds nine times. He averaged a team-high 14 points with 5.4 rebounds a game. Tyler, 6’9 and 223, is battle tested in the ACC and Big East. A former teammate of Palo Verde standout Bryce Cotton at Providence, Harris played in all 34 games this season, making 12 starts. He finished third on the team in scoring (9.9 points per game) and fourth in rebounding (4.4 a game).

— Now the question about whether Arizona will be more talented next year: Ashley will be replaced by Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson at power forward. Smith may fill in for Hollis-Jefferson at small forward although Miller can go small with Simon or Trier playing on the wing. Gabe York, Kadeem Allen, Elliott Pitts, Trier and Simon can rotate at shooting guard. That’s a load of talent replacing a lottery pick in Johnson. Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Simon and York on occasion can play at the point. If York (at 6’3″ and 185 pounds), has NBA aspirations, he must show he can be a play-maker in addition to an efficient outside shooter.

The post position can be stabilized if Tarczewski returns. If not, Dusan Ristic must assume more responsibility on both ends. If Miller is able to land Rabb, Zimmerman, Tollefson or Tyler, that will give him depth and flexibility on the frontcourt.

When the dust settles, by midway through next Pac-12 season, Arizona could have more weapons from players 1 to 11 for Miller to use than this year. The question like any other season will be the team chemistry. As a senior, York must assume the roles McConnell and Nick Johnson had in the previous two years — confident team-building leaders. They were admirable buffers between Miller and the rest of the players. York can take on that role with his experience and confident demeanor. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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