The latest CBS Sports preseason rankings for college basketball came out, and the Arizona Wildcats moved up to the No.1 spot due to the depth of their roster.
The 2017-18 season is turning out to be something special, and it’s still only May. Sean Miller and his staff have done a tremendous job recruiting, and now the Wildcats are in a great position to make a deep run in next season’s March Madness.
Next season’s roster will include: two highly talented five-star and three four-star recruits, five return players, two eligible redshirt players, four walk-ons and one transfer that will be redshirting – wow! Coach Miller will have 16 players. With this amount of talent, it will force each player to work hard pre-season and during practice to earn playing time.
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Let’s take a look at each player to see why the Cats are ranked preseason No.1 according to CBS Sports (Alphabetically):
Emmanuel Akot is the most recent addition and five-star recruit to join the class of 2017. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better for the Wildcats, it did! Akot decided to skip his senior season at Wasatch Academy in Utah and play for the Wildcats.
Originally from Canada, Akot is 6-foot-7 and typically plays the No.3 spot, but like many other modern big men, he can play the No.1 spot. During a recent élite basketball event, he averaged 17 points, five rebounds and almost four assists per game.
Mr. Savagelife is back! What a season Alkins had in his freshman year!
The beloved Alkins recently decided to come back to play for the Wildcats after showing off his talents at the NBA Draft Combine. Alkins proved he was not position less, but he was flexible and could play the one through four. He averaged 28 minutes, 11 points and five rebounds for the Wildcats last season.
Alkins’ toughness on both offense and defense earned him the starting position for 36 out of the 37 games that the Wildcats played. Next season, Alkins will be a key part of the Cats’ success.
One of the many highlights that Alkins provided to Wildcat fans this past season:
Greatness. That is what DeAndre Ayton brings. At 7-foot, he can shoot, rebound, defend, handle the ball; he can do it all! Ayton is the highest rated five-star recruited player in Wildcat basketball history. Ranked as the No.3 overall high school athlete in the country, he averaged 20 points and almost 12 points per game for the AAU team Cal Supreme in the Nike EYBL.
The versatility he has as a big man is incredible. With his ball handling and shooting skills, Ayton could easily play almost every position, except point guard. Who knows! If it weren’t for the rule of having to play at least one year of college before declaring for the NBA, Ayton would easily be a top pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
Ayton is feeling confident about this next season as a Wildcat:
A four-star recruit out of Tempe, Arizona, Alex Barcello averaged 24 points, six rebounds and three assists per game in his senior season with Corona del Sol. His athleticism at the one, combined with his pure shooting from inside and outside, he will make a perfect fit for the Wildcats. Like PJC, Barcello has that McConnell presence about him – which Wildcat fans will love!
Returning from last year, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, played a major role as backup point guard to former Wildcat Kadeem Allen. He averaged 25 minutes, six points and four assists per game. Cartwright shot 42 percent from 3-pt range, which made him versatile at the one. His vision on offense to find his teammates for easy baskets was almost T.J. McConnell like. This next season he will be a key component to getting everyone involved in the offensive.
Not only can Cartwright dish out assists, but he can also dish out blocks too:
Chase Jeter (Redshirting)
Duke Blue Devils transfer Chase Jeter will be joining the Wildcats basketball program this next season but will be redshirting due to transfer rules. While at Duke, Jeter averaged 15 minutes, three points, three rebounds and one block per game. Miller did see something in Jeter and is excited about the future development and what he can bring to the team.
Miller had this to say during the 2017 Spring Press Conference:
"“We became very familiar with his character and his talent level,” Miller said. “I’m here to tell you when you look at where he’ll be in his career. We’re getting an excellent player and somebody we expect great things from.”"
A four-star recruit out of Los Angeles, CA, Ira Lee plays a solid power forward at the No. 4 spot. At 6-foot-7, Lee can take it strong to the basket and finish with both the left and right hand. He is actually left-handed, but shoots the ball right-handed – this guy is talented! Also, he is a strong rebounder and will be a great compliment to the other big men for the Wildcats next season.
And boy can Ira dunk! Look for a ton of dunks from this Wildcat!
Returning for his senior season, Keanu Pinder will likely see limited minutes off the bench due to the new talent coming in next season. But when Pinder’s name is called, rest assured he will bring that much-needed energy. He averaged 12 minutes, two points and three rebounds per game during his junior season. Also, the man from down under led the team with 22 blocks. His hustle and fight on both ends of the court gave him opportunities for playing time.
Another four-star recruit coming to play for the Wildcats next season is Brandon Randolph. At 6 foot 6 and 183 pounds, he is the perfect mold for a shooting guard and has an explosiveness to the basket that will get Wildcat fans out of their seat. In the Jordan Brand Classic game, he led his team to victory. He led all scorers with 32 points, nine rebounds and was named MVP.
Dusan Ristic will be another returner for the Wildcats, adding experience and depth to the Cats’ inside presence. During his junior season, Ristic started in 34 out of the 36 games played. He averaged 23 minutes, 11 points and six rebounds per game, including three double-doubles. This next season he will have competition at the five-spot with five-star recruit DeAndre Ayton joining the Wildcats. Imagine both on the floor at the same time – good luck guarding that!
Dylan Smith, who is a transfer from UNC Ashville and had to sit out and redshirt last season, is eligible to play this next season. While at Ashville, he led the team with almost 14 points per game and was included on the Big South All-Freshman team. Smith showed off his skills in the NCAA Tournament, where he had 14 points and four 3-pointers in a first round loss to eventual national champions Villanova Wildcats.
Will Smith get any playing time this year? That seems to be a common theme this next season. Knowing Miller, he will figure out how to work in Smith. Smith will, however, has had the opportunity to practice with the team for a season, giving him a leg up on the freshman. Who knows, Smith will have a chance to prove himself this year.
Watch this video to get to know Smith a little better:
The second of two transfers for the Cats, Tucson native Denny Talbott will become eligible to play for the Wildcats this next season. He played for Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun Conference, where he averaged 20 minutes, four points and four rebounds per game, before transferring to the Wildcats last season (had to sit out due to a knee injury before the season began). Talbott is aware that he won’t have a major role this year due to the depth of the roster, but he will have the opportunity to play for his hometown.
We had to go way back to find a video, but he looks great in this high school highlight video. Experience counts, so don’t count him out, he’s been waiting quite a while to get on the court at McKale!
Zo will be back! Many fans were excited to hear that Allonzo Trier would be returning for his junior season with the Wildcats. Last season he averaged 32 minutes, 17 points and five rebounds per game. Trier also shot almost 40 percent from 3 point range, which made it hard for his opponents to guard. When needed, he was able to play both the one and two for coach Miller. With his experience, Trier will be a go-to player during crunch time for the Wildcats this next season.
In case you missed it, here is a great interview we got with Ira Lee and Brandon Randolph at the Ballislife All-American game.
Let’s not forget our four walk-on players! Jake DesJardin, Kory Jones, Tyler Trillo, and Paulo Cruz should return, and with a season under their belt! These guys connect well with the returning players, they all hang out together. It’s going to be a great season!
The 2017-18 Wildcat basketball season will be exciting to watch with all the amazing talent on the floor. Zona Zealots will be there for every step of the action and can’t wait for the season to begin- Bear Down!