When Sean Miller took over for Lute Olson at Arizona, the expectations for the former Xavier coach were high, but after two full seasons, it’s safe to say Miller has far exceeded them both on and off the court.
Despite missing out on the NCAA Tournament during his first season at the helm of the Wildcats, Miller immediately put together a strong recruiting class bringing in four four-star prospects, including eventual star Derrick Williams.
With Williams’ progression under Miller’s watch, the Wildcats fought their way to an Elite Eight finish last year.
Now Arizona is hot on the west coast and it’s paying off on the recruiting front.
Their 2011 class consisted of four top 100 prospects, including top three lead guard Josiah Turner, and finished ranked No. 4 overall in the final recruiting class rankings.
The 2012 group Miller has assembled is better. In fact, it’s arguably significantly superior.
Arizona’s current class is ranked as the best class in the country and consists of a pair of top 10 prospects – Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarzcewski – as well as the No. 23 prospect Grant Jerrett and No. 42 Gabe York.
So what is Miller’s secret?
For AAU and high school coaches there seems to be a level of respect for how he handles the recruiting process.
Oakland Soldier coach Mark Olivier, who coached Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson, as well as current commit Brandon Ashley, said his down to earth approach has been a big part of it.
“Honesty,” Olivier said when asked about Miller. “When you talk to him he really cares about the kids and their lives. He comes over as honest to me. He’s a straight shooter.”
Tarczewski is a top 10 recruit
Much like Olivier, La Verne (Calif.) Lutheran coach Eric Cooper Sr. has had a few prospects commit to Sean Miller. To go with being Jerrett’s high school coach, his son – Eric – is committed to Miller for the 2013 class.
“I think a big thing is he pretty much comes across as a genuine guy and a down to earth guy,” Cooper told Scout.com.
“He doesn’t come across as a mega superstar as he probably is,” he added. “He comes across as a guy that likes to win and he’s an every day guy that has an opportunity to coach.”
The prospects themselves look at things a little differently. They are focused on playing for a coaching that will help them improve and reach their goals.
“I think he’s a great guy,” five-star center Kaleb Tarczewski told Scout.com. “He’s really going to do everything in his power to make me the best player that I can be.”
York, a standout at Orange (Calif.) Lutheran, told Scout.com he loved the fact that Miller played basketball at such a high level.
“For me it’s just because he’s a point guard and that’s what he played in college and he was really good at playing that position,” York said when asked about Miller and his recruitment.
“That’s what I need to move into,” he added. “Just knowing that and how good of point guard he was. He’s already helping me get better so I know it’s going to benefit me when I get there.”
York ranks as a four-star prospect
It’s clear Miller’s style and approach to recruiting is a unique, but certainly a successful one.
This year Miller had to beat out the likes of John Calipari and Kentucky for Ashley and snuck in late to swipe Tarczewski from Bill Self and the Jayhawks, who were the early favorite.
But why should we be surprised?
Miller is doing exactly what he’s done since he landed at Arizona, exceed expectations.