After a long year on-and-off the court for Arizona, Sean Miller is building a monster 2019 class.
Don't count on Arizona basketball being down for long.
The Wildcats might not be their usual powerhouse self this season, but Sean Miller is already putting together an elite roster for 2019–20.
On Friday, he landed the commitment of four-star power forward Zeke Nnaji, the No. 33 recruit in the 2019 class per the RSCI class ranking. Nnaji's pledge bumped Arizona to the No. 1 spot in the 247Sports composite team rankings, leaping fellow Pac-12 school USC and reigning champion Villanova.
Nnaji, a 6'11" big man from Hopkins, Minn., picked the 'Cats over a wealth of other offers, including Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA. He joins five-stars Nico Mannion (subject of an SI.com longform) and Josh Green, four-star guard Terry Armstrong and three-star center Christian Koloko. Green and Mannion are ranked No. 10 and No. 13 in RSCI, respectively, and Armstrong is No. 55.
Miller has traditionally been a strong recruiter, but him having this much success with the 2019 class seemed doubtful not long ago after he and the school got caught up in the college basketball bribery scandal. Former Arizona assistant Book Richardson was one of 10 people arrested in the September 2017 FBI sting and was later indicted on charges that included conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud. The school officially fired him in January.
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A month later, uncertainty around Miller's job status swirled after ESPN reported that the FBI intercepted multiple phone conversations in which the head coach discussed a $100,000 payment to secure the commitment of star freshman Deandre Ayton. SI.com's Michael McCann later reported that details of the wiretapped phone call were inaccurately reported and that a source said Miller "never pursued paying or made any payments to a recruit associated with Dawkins."
Still, while all of this was going on, the Wildcats' 2018 class suffered. At one point in March, the program had no commitments after four-stars Shareef O'Neal (who soon chose UCLA) and Brandon Williams both withdrew their pledges. Miller was able to re-secure the commitment of Williams two months later, helping turn a dire situation into the nation's No. 22 incoming class.
Since then, Arizona has been rolling on the recruiting trail. Nnaji gives Miller a well-rounded class and a necessary boost down low, and he should be especially valuable on offense and in transition. The Wildcats aren't likely to see the same mass exodus next spring as this past one, when they lost their entire starting rotation due to either graduation or the NBA draft, but seniors Justin Coleman and Ryan Luther are guaranteed to depart.
Miller has set up Arizona to return to prominence next season, no matter how the rest of this year shakes out. The Wildcats are currently 4–2 and most recently went 1–2 at the Maui Invitational, where they beat Iowa State before falling to top-10 teams Gonzaga and Auburn. They were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 preseason poll.