The end of the season may not have gone the way Wildcat fans wanted it to, but in this era of college basketball there’s no time to focus on the past. Instead, Sean Miller and Arizona are reloading in a big way with a monster recruiting class that will feature multiple star players.
The 2016 class currently has three verbal commitments in combo guard Kobi Simmons, small forward Rawle Alkins, and post player Lauri Markkanen. Each one is a 5 star prospect and brings differing skillsets to the team.
Simmons, an agile 6-5 guard, is skilled on and off the ball. He’s a tremendous athlete with a long frame who can get to the rim with ease, but he also finds open teammates as well. Most importantly, Simmons fits the mold of a lockdown defender, a trait that has led to great success under Miller. With his ability to guard multiple positions, Simmons figures to play a big part in next season’s guard rotation.
Alkins will also be a defensive presence, as he boasts a monster frame at 6-5 and 200 lbs. He possesses the strength of much older players, and can physically dominate matchups. Alkins is a strong athlete who can finish above the rim and also spot up from three point distance.
Like Simmons, Alkins profiles as a great college defender. With his combination of size, strength, and athleticism, he could be a nightmare for opposing offenses to score on. Between Simmons and Alkins, Arizona’s perimeter defense will be getting a massive boost in 2016-17.
The best recruit that nobody is talking about might be the 7 foot Markkanen. Hailing from Finland, Markkanen is big but skilled and can stretch the floor with his shooting ability. He will be able to play either power forward or center, and could become a potent offensive threat.
As a mobile big man, Markkanen is a tough matchup for most college post players. Between Markkanen and rising junior Dusan Ristic, Arizona will have very offensively talented big men and a distinctly European feel to the front court.
Any recruiting class with three players of that caliber would be considered a great success, but Arizona isn’t even done yet. The Wildcats are still in play for two of the biggest uncommitted fish in wings Terrance Ferguson and Josh Jackson, both of whom joined Simmons in the McDonald’s All-American game earlier this week.
If you haven’t seen Ferguson’s dunk highlights yet, pop some corn and enjoy. He’s one of the highest jumpers in recent recruiting classes and routinely rips off breath-taking dunks. At 6-7 he also has great height and length for the shooting guard or small forward positions. And when he gets released in transition, he often burns opponents.
But what makes Ferguson so special is his ability to nail the three point shot. As sharpshooter who loves to pull up from beyond the arc, Ferguson is an incredibly tough matchup. Defenders who don’t respect his shot are punished from long distance, and those who play him too tight are liable to get beaten at the rim.
After visiting Tucson, the Wildcats remain in great shape with Ferguson. Were he to make a commitment, which could happen at any time, Arizona would get another gem in the 2016 class and would get a major injection of offense. The Wildcats remain the favorite to land Ferguson.
On top of all that talent, Miller is still in contention for the top player in the class, wing Josh Jackson. Jackson is a transcendent talent who many have already pegged as a top 5 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. At 6-8 with great length, Jackson has the ideal frame for a next level wing player. He also has the rare combination of size, speed, and skill to shred opposing teams. Jackson has the whole package as a player, and is a sure fire player of the year candidate for whichever conference he chooses to play in.
Jackson’s size and perimeter skill makes him a scary thought for opponents. He can handle the ball, pass, and score at a high level and could even have a point-forward type role in the future. Add that to jaw-dropping athleticism and a relentless motor, and what you have is one of the most talented recruits that Arizona has ever pursued. Simply put, he’s an incredible player.
If Arizona can get commitments Ferguson and Jackson, fans could be looking at one of the most talented recruiting classes in school history. More importantly, a five man class of Simmons, Alkins, Markkanen, Ferguson, and Jackson would elevate Arizona into preseason #1 territory, and give them a legitimate run at the National Championship.