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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

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    PRO: Head coaches must stay present

    Death, taxes and Lute Olson – life’s only three guarantees in the case of Arizona men’s basketball recruits over the past 25 years.

    Until this season.

    Who knows how long for or truly why Olson declared his leave of absence Sunday, but nobody can ever forget how his legendary white hair evolved into a trustworthy symbol of Arizona basketball.

    All of the nation’s top college basketball programs worship their own respective walking legends. ESPN loves to flash the career winning percentages, championship rafters and professional success that each powerhouse programs touts. All three of those recruiting eye-candies link back to the man on the throne, and what better way to attract the nation’s finest ballers by letting your program’s own immortal talk to a 17- or 18-year-old NBA dreamer.

    Take Syracuse, for instance – how desirable would playing basketball at an oversized football dome, in four feet of snow, sound to a basketball big-shot from Southern California?

    Yet this season at ‘Cuse, Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim brought together the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com. (Olson’s Wildcats were ranked No. 5.)

    Sticking with the Big East, take Connecticut as another prime example, as fellow Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun continues to bring in the nation’s best to Storrs, Conn., with the No. 4 recruiting class of 2006.

    Although playing in beautiful weather, surrounded by gorgeous women, sells Arizona as a top choice for many, college basketball recruiting goes far beyond those two perks.

    Thankfully, as UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill keeps a solid grip on things in Tucson, many can expect him to eventually shape out recruiting future classes, after pouring the concrete to his place in the Arizona basketball record books.

    -Bryan Roy,
    sports writer

    CON:There won’t even be a ripple

    If Brandon Jennings, an Arizona recruit who’s the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2008 by ESPN.com’s rankings, sprains his ankle and cannot play for a couple weeks, there’s no question the UA men’s basketball program will still want him to come to headline its class.

    Similarly, with UA head coach Lute Olson taking a leave of absence that senior guard Jawann McClellan hinted could end in time for Tuesday’s season opener, no recruits will be bailing ship.

    That’s why no player has publicly said Olson’s absence has done anything to weaken his commitment.

    With signing day approaching Wednesday, no recruit in his right mind would start looking elsewhere with such little time left and Olson possibly returning by the time he makes his verbal commitment official.

    “”You have to understand where we are – provided all the commitments are locked, and I think they are – it’s not a pressing time in the recruiting calendar of the Wildcats,”” said Dave Telep, the national recruiting director of Scout.com. “”If you’re going to have something like this go on, this is probably the time it’s going to have the least effect on recruiting.””

    You also can’t underestimate the job interim head coach Kevin O’Neill has done on the recruiting trails. O’Neill earned a reputation as a top recruiter as a UA assistant from 1986-1989 and has already made a difference in the recruitment of Jennings, who has said the former NBA coach can help him get to the pros.

    Even more importantly, it’s not like Olson is retiring. That would be sure to affect recruiting as much as Jennings blowing out his knee would alter his status as the top player in his class. But the program has given every indication it expects Olson back this year – and possibly soon.

    “”Until coach Olson gives people more of an insight and length of time he needs, it’s not simple to quantify any effect on recruiting,”” Telep said. “”Clearly, something’s going on where he’s addressing a personal issue. It’s too early to be reactive to the situation.””

    Now if only the football team would stop losing recruits.

    -Michael Schwartz,
    assistant sports editor

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