Now that the dust has settled, Arizona fans have hopefully had enough time to mourn the Elite Eight exit of their beloved Wildcats. It was a promising season turned sour, as the talk circulating around the team changed from National Champion favorites to Final Four contenders seemingly overnight. The tide changed on Feb. 1, when valuable forward Brandon Ashley went down with a season ending injury. From then on, the squad was abruptly forced to make adjustments in hopes of salvaging the season, and meeting the lofty expectations of being National Champions. They almost did. This season’s basketball team was so immensely talented, that even with the loss of one of their most valuable assets the Wildcats squeezed out one of the most memorable seasons in recent history. And though this year’s lineup is almost surely going to be dismantled by NBA draft aspirations, Wildcat fans can rest assured that coach Sean Miller has a few star recruits chomping at the bit, ready for their opportunity to shine in the McKale Center arena.
If any readers have not yet been familiarized with Stanley Johnson, they might want to stop what they are doing and look up the incoming freshman’s highlight reel. The youngster is 6 feet 6 inches and 225 pound of offensive explosiveness. Johnson has the talent to be a starter his first season, and there are those who believe he has the skill set to lead the PAC 12 conference in scoring as a freshman. As the first player in history to win four upper division State Championships in the state of California, Arizona’s newest prize is no stranger to winning. Johnson also has defensive intensity, a strong work ethic, and can play multiple positions.
If Stanley Johnson is Arizona’s new offensive weapon, then incoming freshman Craig Victor is its newest enforcer. The 18-year-old is listed as 6 feet, 8 inches and 205 pounds, with a sturdy frame and an ever improving post game. Victor has great footwork, can block shots, and can even hit mid range jumpers. Assuming Victor bulks up a bit during the offseason, he should make an immediate impact on a team that is already stacked to the rafters with large framed and long-armed talent.
The court general of Arizona’s next generation can be found in the tiny but scrappy Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The 5’8”, 150-pound point guard is slick, quick, and a play-making magician. Due to his inborn “pass first point guard” mentality, Jackson-Cartwright has a golden opportunity in observing one of the most effective true point guards in the nation, T.J. McConnell. Aside from his savvy passing and almost supernatural court vision, one of the most exciting aspects of Jackson-Cartwright’s arrival is the fact that his small size may keep him from casting his lot in the NBA early, and we could see him continue to develop for a full four-year term.
As if Arizona’s frontcourt is not enormously abundant enough, Sean Miller has successfully petitioned the services of yet another seven footer. Serbian born Dusan Ristic is more than just a big wingspan. The center is an excellent passer and low post scorer, and will learn much from the tenacity of Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley during the offseason.
The final piece to next year’s first year squad is in junior college transfer, Kadeem Allen. Allen is a combo guard who has scorched the junior college playing field by averaging 25.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. If the college junior can contribute even a fraction of that amount to his new Wildcats team, he should quickly become a valuable asset to next year’s program.
As magical and memorable as this past season was, Sean Miller is skillfully securing dangerous teams for seasons to come. Last year’s excitement is not fleeting, and it looks like title contention and highlight reels may be the Arizona basketball norm for the foreseeable future.