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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Meet Arizona’s freshmen – next year’s freshmen

    Jerryd Bayless
    Jerryd Bayless

    The Arizona men’s basketball team is only one game into the season, but let’s look ahead to 2007-08. No, I’m not looking past one of UA head coach Lute Olson’s more talented teams. But with the Nov. 8 signing day passed and a five-member recruiting class who have crossed the “”T””s and dotted the “”I””s ready to make its way to Tucson next season, pondering the possibilities can be quite exhilarating.

    Subtract the three seniors, guard Mustafa Shakur, forward Ivan Radenovic and center Kirk Walters, as well as sophomore forward Marcus Williams, who is not only expected to leave by the coaching staff, but probably wouldn’t stay if BeyoncǸ became his personal assistant for the year.

    Now insert two more likely McDonald’s All-Americans in guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Jamelle Horne, two solid role players in guards Zane Johnson and Laval Lucas-Perry and sprinkle in a raw but legit 7-foot center, Alex Jacobson, who may not amount to, but at least looks like, Pittsburgh’s star center Aaron Gray.

    If you think Arizona has gone small this year, next year’s potential lineup could include no one taller than 6-foot-7. Nic Wise at point guard, Bayless at shooting guard, Chase Budinger and Jawann McClellan at the forwards and Horne at the 5.

    Sure those guys may not have the height, but that could be the most athletic lineup in college basketball history, with three budding dunk champions in Horne, Budinger and Bayless. Or Arizona can bring any one of those guys off the bench, play Jordan Hill at center and actually increase its athleticism.

    But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Who are these guys you’ve only seen on recruiting Web sites?

    Meet Jerryd Bayless, a 6-foot-3 combo guard who does 360-degree dunks with ease and averaged 37.8 points per game at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix as a junior last season.

    “”He’s almost like a man playing a boy’s game now,”” said Bayless’ high school coach, David Lopez. “”He can see the whole court now. If you want him to be a point guard and not score, he can do that, and if you want him to be a scorer, he can do that.””

    Bayless’ fiery demeanor and competitive nature in games are part of what Lopez called his “”drive to be the best.””

    “”Any big games we have that are close, he wants the ball,”” Lopez said. “”He’ll say he wants the ball, that he’ll take care of that. He wants to be the decision maker.””

    The only downside to Bayless may be the length of time he wears an Arizona uniform. The man who has been compared with Mike Bibby because of his Phoenix roots, but who plays more of a Dwyane Wade style of game – too early to compare him to the actual MVP candidate – made game winners against St. Mary’s rival Brophy in both his freshman and sophomore years. Ranked No. 10 by the recruiting service Rivals.com, Bayless could be headed for the NBA after his freshman year.

    “”He could probably just go out of high school, talking with some of the NBA people and scouts, but I think he has the feeling that he wants to last in the NBA and not only just to get drafted,”” Lopez said. “”I think he could go right now and get drafted (if there were no age restriction), but he wants some staying power.””

    Bayless willhave to get used to playing with a number of scorers around him, however.

    “”His weaknesses are shot selection,”” said Greg Hicks, the West Coast recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “”He has a tendency to take a lot of bad shots because he’s such an exceptional athlete and because he can get his shot whenever he wants to. It won’t be all about him taking 30 shots a game, which he can at the high school or AAU level.””

    Meet Jamelle Horne, a 6-foot-7 high-riser from San Diego who reminds people of Richard Jefferson but without the ball handling and a worse jump shot at the same stage in their careers. But that may be heaping too much praise on a young kid by comparing him to an NBA All-Star.

    “”Among the wings in the West, he’s got about as much upside as anybody,”” Hicks said. “”He’s very, very explosive, and he’d fit right in playing in an up-tempo system.””

    Meet Zane Johnson, a 6-foot-6 rifleman from Thunderbird High School in Phoenix. Not one of the elite prospects in the class, Johnson had to wait his turn to snag an Arizona scholarship. But it is safe to say that Wildcat fans haven’t seen a shooter with size at the wing in quite some time.

    “”They either have guards who can shoot the ball who are under 6-3 or 6-2, or athletic guys who can’t shoot very well,”” Hicks said. “”They haven’t had one like that in a while. He’s bigger than (Michael) Dickerson was, and wasn’t even that good of a shooter when he came in.””

    Hicks said Johnson will fit in well at Arizona because he’s a threat from the perimeter in transition situations.

    “”He’s one of the best-shooting wings in the West,”” Hicks said. “”He’s the kind of kid that I think Arizona’s gotten away from recruiting recently, and that’s why I think he’s a very good pickup for them. He’s the kind of kid that’s gonna be a four-year guy. He’s a better athlete than people give him credit for.””

    Meet Laval Lucas Perry, a 6-foot-1, 191-pound combo guard from Grand Blanc, Mich., who could line up at fullback and bulldoze his way over the goal line. Instead, the next coming of Wise (with an extra four inches) will be bulldozing his way past smaller guards.

    Perry comes from a family of basketball players. His dad played for Dick Vitale at Detroit and his sister plays for Michigan State.

    “”He’s very intelligent on the floor, and he knows what we’re trying to get done,”” said David Pratt, Perry’s assistant coach at Luke M. Powers Catholic High School, back in August when Perry committed.

    Meet Alex Jacobson, a 7-foot center from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., who won’t overwhelm anyone with a 40-inch vertical or a 4.4 40 speed. But as the old basketball saying goes, “”You can’t teach height.””

    “”His development has been somewhat slow, but it’s the kind of thing where big kids take different amounts of time to grow into their body and become comfortable,”” said Hicks, who’s seen Jacobson play since ninth grade. “”I don’t think he’s really comfortable in his body yet. He’s going to be a project. Ideally, he could get a redshirt year.””

    But Hicks said Jacobson has a good feel for the game and passes well out of the post, but would benefit more playing in a system that makes him the focal point in high school rather than at the high-powered Mater Dei program.

    Meet next year’s five Arizona freshmen, a class ranked No. 3 by Rivals.com. With two likely NBA players in Horne and Bayless, two role players in Lucas-Perry and Johnson, and the big unknown in Jacobson, Olson may have his best class ever.

    Of course, you can’t judge until 2011.

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