What’s in store with Simmons’ expected commitment to Arizona Wildcats


Five-star point guard Kobi Simmons is expected to commit to Arizona on Saturday after Ohio State and UNLV recently fell out of the picture. Kentucky, another finalist, already has a point guard commit for the Class of 2016. (YouTube video capture)

The fruits of Sean Miller’s relentless recruiting efforts, attracting a player without an official visit, should be in the form of 5-star point guard Kobi Simmons on Saturday.

The 6’5″ and 170-pound point guard is expected by many recruiting analysts to choose Arizona at the Hoop Hall Classic on ESPN. Simmons’ Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis High School team plays Lone Peak (Utah) at 10:30 a.m, Tucson time. But he will wait to make his announcement until halftime of the Athlete Institute-Findlay Prep game on ESPN around 4:30 p.m.

Two of Simmons’ finalists — Ohio State and UNLV — a couple of schools he’s officially visited — are reportedly no longer on his list. That leaves Kentucky vs. Arizona. John Calipari has already signed former Arizona target De’Aaron Fox, a point guard from Katy, Texas.

Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson and Miller never gave up on the recruitment of Simmons although the Wildcats were not in the forefront until this week. UNLV’s firing of Dave Rice opened the door for Arizona, which may have forced Ohio State to close its door to landing Simmons.

Simmons will likely take his official visit to Arizona’s campus after his season with St. Francis.

“Kobi is an elite scorer with good size and athleticism,” Scout.com analyst Brian Snow was quoted as saying this week about Simmons. “Capable of playing on or off the ball, Simmons brings versatility on both ends and when focused is one of the most productive players in the class.”


Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill

If Kobi Simmons honors his expected commitment to Arizona and signs during the spring, he will become the first Wildcat recruit from Georgia since Jordan Hill, an Atlanta native. Hill played in high school at the Patterson School in Patterson, N.C. Another Georgia product who played at Arizona was Macon’s Morgan Taylor, who was signed by Ben Lindsey out of Middle Georgia Junior College in 1982. After sitting out Lute Olson’s first season in 1983-84 to concentrate on academics, Taylor was an important part of Olson’s first NCAA tournament team at Arizona in 1984-85. He started 12 games and averaged 8.3 points and 3 rebounds a game.

Morgan Taylor

Morgan Taylor

Here is a look at Arizona’s 2016-17 roster with Simmons and power forward signee Laurie Markannen added and all players with remaining eligibility theoretically returning as well:

Point Guard: Kadeem Allen (Sr.), Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Jr.) and Kobi Simmons (Fr.)

Shooting Guard: Allonzo Trier (Soph.), Justin Simon (Soph.) and Elliott Pitts (Sr.)

Small Forward: Ray Smith (RFr.)

Power Forward: Laurie Markannen (Fr.)

Center: Dusan Ristic (Jr.) and Chance Comanche (Soph.)

That is 10 of 12 scholarship spots filled. Arizona loses seniors Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen.

If none of the underclassmen transfer or enter the NBA draft after this season, that leaves two scholarships to fill.

The possibility exists that Trier and even Smith will try the NBA.

That, of course, depends on how strongly Smith responds to his rehabilitation from right knee surgery. Smith, whom NBA scouts reportedly admired during preseason workouts, will be a longshot to be drafted given he has not played the last two seasons (he sat out last year at Las Vegas High School following surgery on his left knee). Arizona is high on another 5-star talent, wing player Josh Jackson, rated the best in the Class of 2016 by many recruiting analysts.

So it will be interesting to see how Miller and his staff can incorporate both Smith and Jackson into the rotation. That might be more of an “if” proposition than a “how”. It’s difficult to see Jackson coming to Arizona if Smith remains to play as a redshirt freshman next season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, however, because the Wildcats lack depth at small forward and power forward.

Trier led Arizona in scoring at the time of his broken right hand injury suffered last week at USC. If he returns strongly in mid-February and has a highly productive March, his name will start to appear on draft boards. Trier is listed only on DraftExpress.com’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft as the No. 33 pick overall.

None of the other six returners next season figure to leave early for the NBA.

What about a potential transfer away from the program? That’s always a possibility.

Pitts, a junior, continues to miss games for personal undisclosed reasons, but no indication exists that he is transferring. He continues to be involved with team activities. It would not be wise for him to transfer to another Division I school because he would miss half of his senior season next year.

If Arizona does not have any defections (to the NBA or elsewhere) and still manages to sign Simmons, Jackson and Australian power forward prospect Harry Froling (who officially visited during Thursday’s game with Washington), Miller’s 2016-17 roster will be overloaded with talent. That seems like a pipe dream because of potential chemistry and playing time issues.

Miller’s second unit could be picked to win some conferences. The only seniors would be Pitts and Allen. It will be another reloading project for Miller. Rebuilding is no longer in the vocabulary with Miller’s operation.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com 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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