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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Red-Blue Game to highlight past-present-future of Arizona basketball

Arizona+forward+Ray+Smith+%282%29+prepares+to+slam+a+dunk+in+McKale+Center+on+Oct.+17%2C+2015+during+last+years+Red-Blue+Games+dunk+contest.+Smith+will+return+to+the+court+this+season+after+suffering+a+season-ending+knee+injury+after+last+years+Red-Blue+Game.
Rebecca Noble

Arizona forward Ray Smith (2) prepares to slam a dunk in McKale Center on Oct. 17, 2015 during last year’s Red-Blue Game’s dunk contest. Smith will return to the court this season after suffering a season-ending knee injury after last year’s Red-Blue Game.

The 2016-2017 Arizona men’s basketball season kicks off Friday with the annual Red-Blue Game. A long-standing tradition in Tucson, the Red-Blue Game is viewed by most as the official start to the season. The game is sold out for the sixth straight year.

This year’s festivities will be slightly different, and quite a bit more special. This season marks the 20th anniversary of the 1996-1997 national championship team, and that title team will be in attendance Friday. The 1997 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Miles Simon will have his jersey recognized at halftime and hung in the McKale Center rafters. 

The night will feature the scrimmage and a dunk contest between this year’s Wildcats. With so many new faces in the rotation for Arizona, this year’s Red-Blue Game could help answer questions more so than in years past. The game is an intra-squad scrimmage, so it is usually tough to take away much from it. This year, though, two players have everyone buzzing heading into the season. 

Ray Smith returns from his ACL injury in Friday night’s game. Ironically, the last game Smith played in was last year’s Red-Blue Game. He tore his ACL shortly after and everyone in McKale Center will be excited to see how he has recovered. 

RELATED: Ray Smith becomes leader for Wildcats despite two ACL tears

Freshman Lauri Markkanen’s recruitment has generated a lot of buzz this off-season, and indications are that the big man will start at power forward this season. Friday will be the first time Wildcat fans get to see him compete against his peers. 

The Red-Blue Game is an important recruiting event for the program. Both committed and uncommitted players attend the game each year, and it has helped Arizona land big prospects in the past. 

This year’s game is no different, with six high-profile recruits planned to be in attendance. Class of 2017 recruits Daejon Davis, Lonnie Walker and Ira Lee will be in McKale Center along with Class of 2018 recruits Quentin Grimes and Brandon Williams.

The two other recruits in attendance are the No. 1 and No. 2 in the state of Arizona for next year’s incoming class. DeAndre Ayton, who is the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation, will be in attendance along with four-star recruit Alex Barcello.

RELATED: DeAndre Ayton, basketball’s No. 1 overall recruit, commits to Arizona over Kansas Jayhawks

Barcello hails from Tempe and attends Corona del Sol high school. He has been tapped as the next point guard for “Point Guard U” by Sean Miller, and Barcello certainly looks the part. 

After scoring 51 points during a game in his sophomore season, Miller offered Barcello a scholarship the next day. Barcello said Miller promised to follow his high school career closely, and the two have developed a close relationship. Barcello committed this past August. He is an athletic, two-way guard who likes to play physically. 

“I’m a tough player; I don’t like to lose,” Barcello said. “Coach Miller told me that he wanted me to be the point guard for the future. That’s a big role to take over, but I’m willing to do whatever work it takes to take over that role.”

Ayton attends Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix and is the biggest recruit to come to a Red-Blue Game ever. Besides being the top-ranked player in the nation, he is also the No. 1 player in most 2018 NBA mock drafts. Ayton is a 7-foot athletic specimen. He has skills in the post, but what is most surprising about Ayton is his deftness handling the ball on the wing.

“Our staff here at Hillcrest Prep believes DeAndre can and will be the most dominant player in college basketball while at Arizona,” wrote Nick Weaver, recruiting coordinator at Hillcrest, via text message. “We believe he has a very unique skill set that will and does make everyone around him better.”

Another season of Arizona basketball is here and it all begins Friday night at 5:30 in McKale Center. The Red-Blue Game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks beginning at 7 p.m.


Follow Chris Deak on Twitter.


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