Arizona invading California for talent
Aaron Gordon and Jabari Bird could be heading to Tucson by 2013
There is no doubt that Arizona’s last two recruiting classes can have a positive impact on the program.
But there are three players who can have the biggest influence overall -- 2011 guards Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson and 2012 signed recruit Brandon Ashley. All three are members of the talent-laden Oakland Soldiers program that finished No. 4 in the Five-Star Summer Top 25.
There are more prospects on the way from the Bay Area travel squad, including un-committed and highly regarded juniors Aaron Gordon and Jabari Bird. With a heavy Soldiers presence already in Tucson, Coach Sean Miller’s team is in the mix for both.
“It [going to Arizona] would be really cool because they’re all my homies,” Gordon said. “And that’s the solider fam. I feel like our chemistry would be really good.”
“Me and Aaron, we definitely talked about it,” Bird said. “We hopefully can go to the same school, I’d like that, that’s my boy right there.” (Watch the full interview with Bird below)
Aaron Gordon has been affiliated with the program since 6th grade, while Bird has been around since he started high school. Greg Davis, along with Mark Olivier runs the program and recognizes that he might be sending more and more kids to Tucson in the coming years.
“Having kids there already helps immensely,” Davis said. “Us and the parents get to see how each kid’s situation progresses and they get an in with the program learning the ins and outs.”
Davis remarked that a lot of parents are close within the program, so if one kid has a great experience somewhere, that parent will be sure to let others know.
Gordon is a hybrid forward and considered a top 5 player in the class. Bird is a highly efficient wing who is seen as a Top-50 player in the class. Miller already has a plan for the duo.
“They said I would be a ‘Phoenix forward’,” Gordon said. “Which means I can rebound and push the ball. I really like that.”
“We can fit in well, he can be the 3 and I can be the 2,” Bird said.
Cal, Arizona and Washington are Bird’s favorite three. Recently, Duke assistant Jeff Capel inquired about Bird after seeing him at the City of Palms. UCLA and Oregon are also going after him.
“With Arizona and U-Dub (Washington), two programs right now that can make runs in the tourney,” Bird said. “I feel like if I go there, I can help put them over the top.”
When it comes to gathering recruits, Davis noted that comfort is key. Not only does the presence of former teammates help but a relationship with the coach plays a significant role. Arizona assistant Book Richardson seems to be playing that role well.
“Coach Book is a guy you can talk to,” Davis said. “Guys like comfort and of course the run they had last year didn’t hurt.”
Highlighted by an average 3.0 GPA and a litany of Top 100 recruits, the Soldiers program is definitely one that college coaches should be in tap to. Notable alums include Drew Gooden (Kansas), Chuck Hayes (Kentucky), Leon Powe (Cal) and Drew Gordon (New Mexico). Now with Arizona snagging recruits, the Soldiers' can have a new home away from home.
"I’m a Cali kid, so I want to stay as close to home as possible," a San-Jose based Gordon said.
That just might be in Tucson.