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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Sean Miller and the NBA Factory

Stephen M. Dowell
Orlando players Aaron Gordon (00) and Victor Oladipo celebrate amid a 105-103 win against the Chicago Bulls at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

When Stanley Johnson walks across the stage and shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday, he will carry with him the UA brand.

The same goes for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and any other Wildcat — T.J. McConnell or Brandon Ashley — potentially picked in the 2015 NBA Draft.

While the draftees will trade cardinal red and navy blue for the colors of their new teams, A-Players Program’s reputation as an NBA Factory will expand even further.

Look around the league and you’ll already find a good number of former Wildcats playing big roles for their respective teams.

Guys like Jordan Hill, Channing Frye and Solomon Hill fill starting minutes while Jerryd Bayless, Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams also see heavy playing time.

Then of course there is Andre Iguodala, who was awarded the NBA Finals MVP after leading the Steve Kerr-coached Golden State Warriors to a title.

Simply put, you don’t have to look far to find a Wildcat paw print in the association.

This matters because when elite high school basketball recruits are deciding where to go to college, arguably no factor is bigger than a program’s success rate at producing NBA players.

Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller may not rely on one-and-done-type players at the same capacity as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari of Kentucky.

However, Miller understands that it’s those types of talents who can come in and immediately turn a team into a national-title contender.

For Arizona to keep up with Duke, Kentucky and the other bluebloods of college basketball, it has to churn out its fair share of NBA talents.

So far in Miller’s tenure at Arizona, the program has produced five NBA draft picks in five years, two of them being lottery selections. On Thursday, the number of draft picks under Miller should jump to at least seven.

While that number isn’t as gaudy as a school like Kentucky, which could have seven draft picks in 2015 alone, Arizona certainly has to be considered one of the top current destinations for players with professional aspirations.

What the players do once they get to the NBA obviously matters, too.

Arizona’s latest draft picks — Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson — found their rookie seasons in the league to be a bit of a roller coaster ride.

Gordon suffered a foot injury while Johnson spent part of the season in the D-League.

However, by season’s end Gordon was averaging over 25 minutes per game. Johnson played far less for the Houston Rockets, but showed glimpses including a 15-point performance in the NBA Playoffs.

If Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson can have immediate success, it will look better on Miller’s track record.

When the pair of ex-Wildcats hear their names called, it will mark just the latest success on NBA Draft night for Arizona.

Going back to 1988, a total of 38 Arizona players have been drafted, tying Arizona for the national lead over that time period.

Arizona as an NBA Draft Factory is nothing new. Only now the switch has been turned back to high production.


Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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