Sean Miller’s fiery passion for his players, the opportunity to shine on the perimeter and chance to compete for a national title each had a hand in nudging Aaron Gordon to Tucson.
Gordon, the premiere combo-forward in the class of 2013, verbally pledged to Miller and Arizona on Tuesday at a news conference for the McDonald’s All American Game. The Bay Area star admitted he was close to committing last fall — Busting Brackets reported in December that Arizona had leapfrogged Washington as the favorite — but pushed back his decision to the spring to bide more time.
A 6-foot-8 power forward by trade, Gordon (Archbishop Mitty HS) is fluid with the ball on the perimeter and will have the opportunity to slide into the small forward slot in lieu of departing senior Solomon Hill. Gordon’s blend of explosiveness, versatility and sheer athleticism will present trying mismatches for Pac-12 coaches to manage. He is too big and powerful for opposing wings, too athletic and perimeter-savvy for opposing bigs.
“What they have is a really, really loaded frontcourt, so that would make us so big, and they have a very experienced backcourt as well,” Gordon said in explaining why Arizona is the right fit for him. “They lose three of their seniors, three of their main scorers (Hill, Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom). Sean Miller’s a really good coach.”
A loaded frontcourt is right. Arizona already boasted one of the stoutest front lines on tap for next season before Gordon committed. The Wildcats figure to return a trio of talented freshmen bigs — former 5-star center Kaleb Tarczewski and blue-chip power forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett — in addition to sophomore forward Angelo Chol. Miller and his staff also sewed up a commitment from fellow McDonald’s All American forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Chester HS). In all, the Cats will wield four former McDonald’s All-Americans in the frontcourt next season on top of a Jordan Brand Classic honoree (Tarczewski).
Although the backcourt is a work in progress, Duquesne transfer point guard T.J. McConnell should ease the transition while incoming freshman sharpshooter Elliott Pitts (De La Salle HS) will add depth in back of starting combo-guard Nick Johnson.
Two-deep at each frontcourt position with bona fide, top-shelf talent, Arizona will challenge Kentucky’s fearsome frontcourt next year for star-power supremacy. Only Big Blue will boast more high school All-Americans in total than 2013-14 Arizona, further proof that Sean Miller has joined the fraternity of elite recruiters.
Leave it to the Wildcats to scoop up all the gems.