Football rained out after 25 plays

Nicole Dimtsios

Summer gives hints to what the future holds

For the Arizona men’s basketball program, head coach Sean Miller’s second year is essentially the first glimpse of what the future holds. That’s because his first year was virtually a head-spinning, draining experience for the coaching staff – one that somehow managed to quickly string together an extremely impressive first recruiting class. The Wildcats went 16-15 in the 2009-10 season, but failed to reach the postseason for the first time in 25 years, not including a NCAA-vacated postseason appearance in 2008 – more on that later. Now, Miller and Co. have been hot on the recruiting trail for over a year, and the goal for the man that took over Hall of Famer Lute Olson’s seat is clear – find stability and the wins will come. “”I think right now the one common theme that should be prevalent in everything we do is just stability,”” Miller said in a press release over the summer. “”We have a number of players who have done everything at least once before and when you come from the perspective of four coaches in four years, to me that is very meaningful.”” Here’s a breakdown of what transpired over the summer and how it might affect the outlook for the program moving forward. NCAA adds to sanctions An elaborate NCAA investigation into the actions of Olson’s recruiting tactics – primarily involving a letter his office sent out to booster club to raise funds for a non-UA related AAU tournament – prompted the school to self-impose sanctions upon itself last spring. The NCAA decided on July 29 to add additional penalties, including the loss of a scholarship in 2012-13, and vacating 19 wins and a postseason appearance in the 2007-08 season. The NCAA also ruled that Arizona’s previously-believed 25-year NCAA Tournament streak, the second most in NCAA hoops history, was taken away. What’s it mean? It means that the book closes on a tumultuous investigation that tarnished one of college basketball’s coaching legacies. Miller and new Athletic Director Greg Byrne didn’t appeal the additional penalties because they want to forget about the past. Sure, Olson created a basketball program in little ol’ Tucson, one of the most heralded in the country. But now it’s all on Miller to climb the ladder and reset the bar, a high bar at that. Judging by his work ethic, it appears that he’s just fine with all the pressure. Speaking of his work ethic … Miller has already established himself on the recruiting circuit. Read through any recruiting websites and it’s obvious Miller is going for top talent, even hitting up the AAU games that other top-notch coaches aren’t. Want evidence? In this year’s freshman class, Miller brought in junior college forward Jessie Perry along with’s four-star-rated swingman Daniel Bejarano from North High School in Phoenix and Los Angeles Westchester High School guard Jordin Mayes. As for the 2011 recruiting class, highly touted Mesa High School point guard Jahii Carson verbally committed to ASU Saturday, but it came after Wednesday’s announcement that Nick Johnson, a former Highland High School in Gilbert, Ariz., standout who transferred to Nevada’s Findlay Prep, committed to the UA. ESPNU ranks Johnson as the No. 8 shooting guard in the country, but it’s likely he’ll play the point as well, according to the Arizona Daily Star. He joins New York forward Sidiki Johnson, who is a Top-10 recruit at his own position in the 2011 class. What’s it mean? Miller is going after talent, for sure. But he’s also taking note of the diamonds in the rough. Just look at last year’s Pacific 10 Conference freshman of the year in Derrick Williams, who was a little-known three-star recruit out of Los Angeles. Also, Miller is like that pit bull in your neighbor’s backyard – he protects his turf and is recruiting the best in Arizona and southern California for recruits. At the same time, he and assistant coach Book Richardson are keeping tabs back east, pulling guys out of New York like Johnson and sophomores Kevin Parrom and Momo Jones. He has all the tools to be good, now Miller must prove he can coach Arizona back to the promised land – Elite Eights, Final Fours and championships. K-real the enforcer Arizona center Kyryl Natyazhko played for the European U20 Ukrainian team over the summer, averaging 17.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He was ranked by writer Luke Winn as the best NCAA player who appeared in the Euro Championships. During his freshman campaign at Arizona, Natyazhko averaged just 1.9 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest in 10.9 minutes per game. What’s it mean? Admit it: you gave Natyazhko some sarcastic cheers every time he touched the ball last year. You thought he was a bit clumsy, uncoordinated even. This summer’s performance should probably make you take him a little more seriously. Miller always said big men are hard to figure out; who knows when they’ll develop, if they do at all? The guess here is that, at the very least, he’s less deserving of all the flack he’s taken from peers. There’s much promise with the 6-foot-11, 256 pound Ukrainian. – Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism senior and can be contacted at