Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
With Rawle Alkins’ Return, Expectations for Arizona Will Be Sky High
With Rawle Alkins’ return to campus for his sophomore season, the expectations for Arizona will be sky high.
And the pressure on Arizona coach Sean Miller will be immense.
As has been well-documented, Miller is 340-113 in his college coaching career (.751) with four Elite Eight appearances — yet not a single Four Four showing. Arizona was a No. 2 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament but lost to Xavier, Miller’s previous school, in the Sweet 16.
Now heading into the 2017-18 season, the Wildcats will return Alkins after he opted to withdraw from the NBA Draft on Sunday evening. The 6-foot-4 Brooklyn native had worked out for several teams, including the Nets, Thunder and Raptors.
“I can’t wait to help the Wildcats win a national championship next year with a great team, great coach and the most amazing fans in the world behind us,” he wrote.
Arizona loses Lauri Markkanen, Kobi Simmons and Kadeem Allen but now returns both Alkins and sophomore shooting guard Allonzo Trier, who also considered his NBA options.
If you consider that Arizona also returns 7-footer Dusan Ristic and point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, both rising seniors, it’s easy to see how they will have an experienced core with which to work.
Consider that Arizona also adds the No. 4-ranked recruiting class in the nation per ESPN.com, highlighted by 7-footer DeAndre Ayton and 6-5 shooting guard Brandon Randolph.
Ayton is a projected top-3 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft per DraftExpress.com, and Arizona sold him on potentially being the first No. 1 pick ever to emerge from the Pac-12 program.
The Wildcats now have the projected Nos. 3 (Ayton), 33 (Trier) and 44 (Alkins) players in the 2018 Draft, per DraftExpress.com.
Randolph is a proven scorer who should slot in behind Trier and Alkins to provide scoring off the bench.
As of this moment, Arizona remains in the mix for Pittsburgh transfer Cam Johnson and uncommitted 2017 wing Brian Bowen, although Alkins’ return could influence both to go elsewhere.
Still, Alkins’ goal of winning a national championship will now become the mantra at Arizona.
The usual suspects, including Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas and Villanova, should be in the mix, but Alkins return automatically ups the expectations at Arizona.
And the pressure on Sean Miller.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.