Five-star guard Rawle Alkins committed to Arizona and head coach Sean Miller on Monday, concluding a patient recruiting process that now sends the Brooklyn native across the country. During a live spot on ESPNU, Alkins, clad in a light-grey suit, stood up and unbuttoned his jacket to reveal an Arizona tie.
Standing a burly 6'4", Alkins rates as Scout’s No. 20 player and third-best shooting guard in the 2016 class. He selected the Wildcats out of a final five that included NC State, North Carolina, St. John’s and UNLV.
“I don’t want to be one of those freshmen on the bench cheering,” Alkins said. “I want to be one of those impact freshmen you guys [the media] talk about.”
He’ll get the chance to do that in Tucson, where he’ll join fellow five-star guard Kobi Simmons and skilled Finnish forward Lauri Markkanen and replenish Miller’s well of talent.
A native of Canarsie, Brooklyn, Alkins led Christ the King High School to three straight city titles in his first three years as a prep player, and also led his New York Rens AAU team to a title at the Adidas Gauntlet summer championship, in which averaged 23.8 points. This past fall, Alkins followed in the footsteps of many a New York City prep star and transferred out-of-state.
The move came as the result of a minor controversy: as an eighth-grader, Alkins logged eight games on the varsity team at Palm Beach Central (Fla.) High. New York rules stipulate student-athletes can play no more than four years of continuous high school basketball, placing his eligibility for another year in question. Rather than wait for a ruling, Alkins enrolled at Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C., where he’s spent his final year of high school.
Alkins was ineligible for the McDonald’s All-American game for a similar reason—he was deemed a fifth-year player, although his age, 18, aligns with those in his class. His omission casts no shadows over his talent, however. He’s a strong scorer, is dangerous off the dribble and is more than ready to shoulder important minutes from the get-go.
It’s a huge win for Arizona, which got back in on Alkins late in the game and will send off senior Gabe York after the NCAA tournament. After initially leaving the Wildcats off his final list, Alkins changed his mind in late December after speaking at length with Miller and assistant Book Richardson. A February visit to campus sealed the deal. The program’s history of developing wing scorers and the opportunity for immediate playing time make it a natural fit.
Alkins’s decision stings for St. John’s. He was the first player Chris Mullin called after being hired as head coach last summer. Ultimately, the coaching staff was unable to keep its biggest fish within the five boroughs, and while four-star guard Shamorie Ponds makes for a solid backcourt addition, it’s no secret how critical Alkins would have been to rebranding the Red Storm.
“I hate when colleges try and talk to me about their past, and when they used to win and how all the great players came from their school,” Alkins told SI.com during his recruitment. “I’m the type of person that thinks anywhere I go, we’re gonna win. I don't care about the past … [we’re] not in that era.”
He’s landed in a spot with an estimable combination of the history and win-now opportunity he wanted all along. If the Wildcats can also land the biggest domino left on the board, five-star small forward and No. 2 national player Josh Jackson, they could potentially field one of the most athletic lineups in the nation, combining all four freshmen on the court. Either way, expect some fireworks in the desert next season.