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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona fans shouldn’t take five-star talent for granted

Sydney Richardson
Arizona freshman guard Justin Simon (3) eyes the court during Arizona’s 94-62 win against Stanford on Saturday, March 5 in McKale Center. Simon has decided to transfer from Arizona, hoping to get more playing time.

The Arizona men’s basketball season has been finished for almost two weeks and talk of next season might be hotter than that when the actual basketball season was unfolding.

Head coach Sean Miller is well on his way to a Kentucky-esque recruiting class. Three five-star recruits are on their way to Tucson while two more in Josh Jackson and Terrance Ferguson are strongly considering the Wildcats.

This news has been a blessing to Arizona fans, who after the de-commitment of five-star big man T.J. Leaf, were desperate for any signs of life for the class of 2016.

Now, the question to be asked is: Have Arizona fans become spoiled with five-star recruits?

The high expectation that comes with the Arizona basketball program is fair in large part due to its storied and successful history. The founding fathers, both players and coaches, created a culture that demands excellence. It’s the same way at Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse and Michigan State, among others.

If those before you won, then you better win too. But a certain line is crossed once a fan base expects certain things to happen.

What if the Wildcats hadn’t gotten commitments from Lauri Markkanen, Rawle Alkins or Kobi Simmons? What if Jackson and Ferguson weren’t strongly considering Arizona? Would fans be as excited for next year, or would it be seen as a lost cause?

This past season is already in the rearview for many fans. Yes, the Wildcats were ousted quickly, but moments within the season shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly the completion of the accomplished college careers of Gabe York and Kaleb Tarczewski.

Related: Arizona early transfers have seen mixed success

Fans need to appreciate what they have while it’s there. Five-star or not, you never know for certain what the outcome will be.

The Wildcats experienced that early Monday morning. Four-star freshman guard Justin Simon announced he is transferring from the Arizona basketball program after completing his first and only season. Having seen time in 24 games throughout the season, the guard averaged 2.3 points and 1.2 rebounds per game while averaging about seven-and-a-half minutes per game.

Simon’s departure was to be expected. Most of the recruits Miller is bringing in range from the 1-3 positional range and it was difficult seeing him getting additional playing time in the near future.

When he arrived, though, Simon had arguably as much hype as any other big name recruit who steps on campus. A 6-foot-5 point guard who is athletic and plays defense just as Arizona was losing its starting point guard of two years? People get excited just like that.

After seeing his sole season end up on the bench, Simon didn’t quite live up to the expectation. Is all of it his fault? No. Some of this season was in his control and some was not. That’s sports. But now that he’s gone, fans are moving on as if he never existed. It’s not that he didn’t exist; his situation just didn’t allow him to prove himself.

Even former five-star forward Grant Jerrett, whom some of you may be too young to remember, never blossomed into a star. In his lone season for the Wildcats, Jerrett played in 34 games in the 2012-2013 season—starting in only two—and averaged 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, before bolting for the NBA.

Not everyone works out as planned.

Fans should be excited about these recruits. There’s enough highlight videos of these kids circulating that it’s impossible not to feel the fresh idea of a deep tournament run for next season, and the Wildcats have a strong potential to do just that with this class coming in.

But Arizona fans need to appreciate what they have regardless and can’t forget those who came and went so easily.

It’s difficult to not enjoy being spoiled with some of the best recruits in the country year in and year out. But enjoy everyone and don’t move on so quickly. If this season taught us anything, it’s that you never know what the future will hold.

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter

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