Gimino: 5-star guard Kobi Simmons commits to Arizona
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The recruiting world has shifted a bit under Arizona's feet, but coach Sean Miller can cast his net over a big, wide world of prospects.
Arizona picked up its second player for its 2016 class on Saturday afternoon, when Kobi Simmons, a five-star guard from the Atlanta area, picked the Wildcats on ESPN during the HoopHall Classic from Springfield, Mass.
Back in November, the Wildcats signed 7-footer Lauri Markkanan, a native of Finland whose other finalists were North Carolina and Utah.
Simmons is a surprise commitment, inasmuch as he didn't publicly have Arizona on his list of final three finalists a week ago. But the Wildcats had been involved and replaced one of those finalists -- UNLV -- when the Rebels fired head coach Dave Rice last weekend.
The other finalists were Kentucky (which appeared to be a long-shot because those Wildcats already have two five-star guards in their class) and Ohio State, which dropped out of the running Thursday, according to multiple reports.
Simmons committed despite never visiting the Arizona campus.
Simmons (6-5, 170) had one of his best high school games Saturday, finishing with 34 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in his team's 94-92 double-overtime win in Springfield. He fouled out in the first overtime.
"Everybody has him listed as a point guard, but in the summer there were discussions that he is more of a shooting guard," said Matt Moreno, who runs goazcats.com and saw Simmons in two AAU events this summer.
"He is a high-volume shooter. He does get up a lot of shots, leading people to think he's more of a shooting guard. With that said, he can score.
"When you think of Kobi Simmons, you think of scoring. He really attacks the rim, is athletic, and at 6-5, he has a big frame to rebound and get out in transition."
For those who were worried about this late-developing Arizona recruiting class, Miller now has Simmons, rated No. 18 nationally in the 247Sports' Composite rankings, and Markkanan, who would potentially be a McDonald's All-American if he played in the United States.
And the biggest fish is still out there. The nation's top-rated recruit -- 6-foot-7 wing Josh Jackson -- is likely to pick between Arizona and Michigan State.
Simmons' commitment won't deter Jackson.
"I think that's one of the first things that comes to people's minds -- is it going to push Jackson away?" Moreno said.
"Michigan State is the other big school recruiting him and it's not like they don't have a bunch of five-star kids. I don't think this affects him very much. I actually think it helps Arizona because it's another talented guy he can play with."
Arizona has planned to add a combo guard to its class, and likely have kept Jackson informed every step of the way.
"Josh Jackson is so versatile that he could play the 2 or the 3, maybe even the 4," Moreno said. "He can play all over the court."
ESPN.com describes Simmons, a 6-5, 170-pound combo guard from St. Francis High in Alpharetta, Ga., like this:
Simmons is a long and quick combination guard that can score and distribute the ball. Excellent first step as he slashes in between defenders. Rhythm dribble three point shooter can get in a scoring flow and rhythm and has dominating possessions in transition and the halfcourt as well. Capable of defending both guard positions. At his best and most confident when he plays to his strengths and not worry about position.
ESPN.com adds that Simmons "should have adding strength at the top of his to do list and work to be a consistent performer. When he worries about playing on or off the ball he is not as confident and it takes away from his production."
Simmons is said to relish the point guard role; how he fits into the Arizona roster down the road is something Miller will have to figure out next fall. Either way, Simmons' athleticism and playmaking is welcome in a rapidly improving league.
While Miller cleaned up in California earlier in his tenure, Cal and UCLA, in particular in the past year, have made it tougher for the Wildcats.
Arizona lost big man Ivan Rabb to the Bears in the last recruiting class, and the Bruins snatched power forward T.J. Leaf this season after he had committed to the Wildcats. The rise USC adds more potential competition for L.A.-area kids, while Washington is again recruiting at an elite level and Arizona State has stepped up its profile, too, with the hiring of Bobby Hurley.
Oregon is a force, too.
The league is getting more spirited on the court, which means more cutthroat stakes on the recruiting trail in the West.
Miller's strength is establishing relationships early, and he and his staff figure to still be successful in the West, but the Wildcats are also positioned as a national brand.
Arizona is now established overseas, too, with sophomore center Dusan Ristic and the signing of Markkanen. Harry Froling, a four-star post player from Australia, was on an official visit this week. He has also visited Illinois, is at Colorado today and then heads to SMU, where his twin sisters play for the women's team.
Arizona will have at least five scholarships available -- seniors Kaleb Tarczewski, Gabe York, Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen will depart, and UA is one under the limit already. Freshman guard Allonzo Trier could potentially leave for the NBA Draft, and there could always be other defections/transfers in the offing.
But Arizona's recruiting class is starting to take shape -- Markkanen and Simmons -- as Miller looks for his sixth consecutive national Top 5 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite.
The addition of Jackson would guarantee that.
If Jackson slips away, Miller can cast his net over the transfer market -- either a graduate transfer like Tollefsen or somebody to stash away (like a Ryan Anderson or T.J. McConnell) for the 2017-18 season.
Miller's track record suggests he'll find a way.
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For a slideshow and highlight video of Simmons from Saturday, click here.
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Follow Anthony Gimino's coverage of the Arizona Wildcats on Facebook and Twitter.