Sean Miller isn’t done yet with his recruiting class, but it’s already impressive, with three five-star recruits committed to play ball in Tucson.
All three made ESPN.com’s Jeff Borzello’s list of the top 25 freshmen of the 2016-17 season.
The first name to make the list is the most unfamiliar.
Lauri Markkanen, the 6-foot-11 stretch power forward from Finland, is No. 15 on the list.
Markkanen hasn’t been seen too much on American soil, but the Finland native could be one of the best frontcourt players in the Pac-12 next season. College coaches who scouted him said he would be a top-20 player in the United States, and one NBA scout said last week he would have been the best big man at the McDonald’s All American game (although the group was without Giles, that’s still lofty praise). Fortunately for Markkanen, Sean Miller badly needs frontcourt production with Ryan Anderson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Mark Tollefsen leaving and Dusan Ristic the only rotation member coming back. Markkanen will certainly get his chances.
As Borzello says, the frontcourt — especially at power forward — will have enough room for Markkanen to play major minutes. Centers Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche are expected to take the playing time at center.
Five-star wing Rawle Alkins and five-star point guard Kobi Simmons are both at No. 21.
One of these players will need to see extended minutes right off the bat next season, but it will be interesting to see if both are getting 25-30 minutes. Arizona already returns Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kadeem Allen at the point guard spot, plus Allonzo Trier and Ray Smith on the wing — and the possibility of Terrance Ferguson coming into the fold. Simmons is talented enough to beat out both Jackson-Cartwright and Allen at the point, but needs to be more consistent. Alkins is a physical scorer who could also find himself playing the small forward spot if Smith moves to the four in a smaller lineup.
Even with Justin Simon transferring, the backcourt is still crowded, as Borzello notes. Alkins, however, could have a much more difficult time making an impact over Simmons if Josh Jackson commits to the Wildcats.
Jackson is the top-ranked player who has yet to commit in the 2016 class. The five-star wing is deciding between Arizona, Kansas and Michigan State.
Jackson is No. 1 on Borzello’s rankings.
First, Jackson is the best two-way player entering the college game. He was one of the best defensive players in the country the past couple of seasons, showing an ability to guard multiple positions on the ball and play passing lanes and help defense off the ball. His length and awareness are on another level — which will help him adapt immediately to the college game. At last month’s McDonald’s All American game, Jackson played lockdown defense on Jayson Tatum, who might have the best offensive skill set of anyone in the high school game. Moreover, Jackson has a winner’s mindset, more than anyone else in the 2016 class. Jackson will get on his teammates and should bring leadership right off the bat.
The five-star wing would be Miller’s highest ranked ESPN.com commit since he arrived in Tucson in 2009.
Five-star uncommitted wing Terrance Ferguson is No. 16 on the list. Borzello said “Arizona is considered to be the leader” on Ferguson.
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