Bottom line: Attracting five-star recruits a way of life at Arizona

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MOST FIVE-STAR RECRUITS SINCE SEAN MILLER’S HIRE IN 2009

Source: Scout.com (compiled by AllSportsTucson.com). NT-National titles. Note: Class of 2016 not complete until end of spring signing period.

School Coach 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Tot NT
Kentucky John Calipari 3 3 4 3 6 3 3 4 29 1
Duke Mike Krzyzewski 2 1 1 2 3 4 4 3 20 2
Arizona Sean Miller 0 0 1 3 2 1 3 4 14 0
UCLA Howland 09-13/Alford 14-16 1 0 0 3 1 3 0 2 10 0
Kansas Bill Self 2 0 0 0 3 2 1 1 9 0

Although favorable to have, five-star recruits are not a sure thing when it comes to overall success.

Of the 18 five-star players Arizona signed from 2002 through last year, only five have evolved into all-conference selections. None have become a player of the year in the Pac-12.

Lute Olson recruited eight five-star recruits, two of which never played at Arizona because they went the pro route out of high school — Ndubi Edi in 2003 and Brandon Jennings in 2008.

Olson coached five-star player Chase Budinger for only one season in 2006-07 before his leave-of-absence saga in 2007-08 and his retirement before the 2008-09 season. He recruited Jerryd Bayless in 2007 but never had the opportunity to coach him.

Budinger is one of the five five-star recruits who became an all-conference pick (in 2008-09). The others are Hassan Adams in 2005-06, Aaron Gordon in 2013-14, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson in 2014-15.

Arizona had 22 first-team all-conference selections from 2002 through this season, which means 17 of the picks, 77.3 percent, were not rated with five stars coming out of high school.

The Wildcats’ five-star contingent has earned other honors:

— Budinger was the 2006-07 conference freshman of the year, a distinction also earned by Gordon in 2013-14 and Johnson in 2014-15.

— Adams was a member of the all-freshman team in 2002-03 as was Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson (2013-14), Johnson (2014-15) and Allonzo Trier (2015-16).

— Gordon, Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski became members of the Pac-12’s all-defensive team.

Coincidentally, Arizona has not reached the Final Four since 2001, although the Wildcats came close five times with Elite Eight appearances in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2014 and 2015.

Villanova won the national title this season despite not having a five-star recruit on its roster, according to the Scout.com rankings. North Carolina was in the title game even though Roy Williams did not sign a five-star recruit last season.

Despite all of these developments, a program like Arizona under Sean Miller has reached the status of needing five-star talent on an annual basis to keep up with Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and Kansas. Only John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski have attracted more five-star recruits than Miller since the coach was hired by Arizona in 2009.

Calipari and Krzyzewski have accepted the theory that winning a national title is worth the risk of losing a five-star player after only one season. Krzyzewski has won two championships since Miller’s hire and Calipari has one. That’s one end of the spectrum.

At the other end is Villanova and UConn. The Huskies have two titles since 2009-10 with only three five-star recruits.

Rick Pitino won the title in 2012-13 at Louisville, but that success did not land him a five-star recruit that same recruiting year. Pitino has four five-star recruits since then, in the last three years, the same amount Miller has attracted this year alone with the Class of 2016.

Do we put too much into these five-star ratings?

Yes, because of all the information presented in this blog.

No, because attracting five-star recruits has become a way of life at Arizona, similar to what Calipari and Krzyzewski are doing with their programs. Who can argue with the five-star approach of Calipari and Krzyzewski, two of the game’s best coaches historically?



If Miller were to go a year without signing a five-star recruit, undoubtedly Arizona’s rabid fans would wonder what the heck is going on.

They will forget Miller’s first two recruiting classes at Arizona did not include a five-star recruit. He signed five four-star players and three three-star guys. Those players were integral along with Olson holdovers Kyle Fogg (three-star recruit in 2008) and Jamelle Horne (four-star recruit in 2007) with the Wildcats reaching the Elite Eight in 2011.

If Rawle Alkins and Terrance Ferguson honor their commitments, gain eligibility and sign with Arizona, they will be part of the Wildcats’ largest group of five-star players in one class.

Arizona and its fans can only hope the sense of accomplishment attracting these players is similar to what they will feel next April in Glendale when the Wildcats cut down the nets.

ARIZONA’S BASKETBALL RECRUITS 2002-2016 RATING
Source: Scout.com. *-Never attended Arizona. **-Lute Olson on leave of absence.

Year Coach 5* 5-Star Players 4* 3* 2*
2002 Lute Olson 2 PG Chris Rodgers/SG Hassan Adams 1 1 0
2003 Olson 2 PG Mustafa Shakur/PF Ndubi Edi* 1 0 0
2004 Olson 1 SG Juwann McClellan 1 2 1
2005 Olson 0 3 0 0
2006 Olson 1 SF Chase Budinger 2 0 0
2007 Olson** 1 SG Jerryd Bayless 1 3 0
2008 Olson** 1 PG Brandon Jennings* 1 2 0
2009 Sean Miller 0 4 1 0
2010 Miller 0 1 2 0
2011 Miller 1 PG Josiah Turner 3 0 0
2012 Miller 3 C Kaleb Tarczewski/PF Brandon Ashley/PF Grant Jerrett 1 0 0
2013 Miller 2 PF Aaron Gordon/SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 1 0 0
2014 Miller 1 SG Stanley Johnson 3 0 0
2015 Miller 3 SF Ray Smith/SG Justin Simon/SG Allonzo Trier 1 0 0
2016 Miller 4 PF Lauri Markkanen/PG-SG Kobi Simmons/SG-SF Rawle Alkins/SG-SF Terrance Ferguson 0 0 0

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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