Aaron Gordon

Would more Aaron Gordons mean more net-cutting? Photo by Wildcat Universe

Aaron Gordon was a model college basketball player in his one season in Tucson. Should Sean Miller change his recruiting model because of it?

Should Miller and Arizona be trying to follow the one-and-done recruiting philosophy Kentucky used on the way to yet another Final Four in 2014?

Before the season we called it an experiment, Arizona’s first taste of life with a player so highly regarded it was all but assured he would be turning pro after his freshman season.

That’s exactly how it played out. Gordon came, he saw, he dunked and now Wildcat fans will see him no more. Even so, the arrangement was still beneficial to the UA.

Gordon didn’t gun for his own stats, he wasn’t a drama queen and he didn’t make any headlines off the court. Oh, and he was really, really good.

Say what you want about the free throw shooting but Gordon ended up as the team’s second leading scorer and there’s no way the Arizona goes as far as it did without the freshman’s defense or 8.7 rebounds per game in March.

(About March: I do differentiate between the tournament and the season as a whole. The 2013-’14 Arizona Basketball season was a success. Winning the Pac-12, setting win records, spending two months at No. 1 in the polls – that’s a successful season. The NCAA tournament was not a success. And that’s why the returning players are already talking about “Unfinished Business” for next year.)

So if the Gordon experience was positive why not go after another Gordon? Why not bring in a whole team of Gordons? That tactic has worked out pretty well for Kentucky. Look at what John Calipari has been able to do with those Other Wildcats:

YearNCAA Tournament Result
2010Elite Eight
2011Final Four
2012National Champions
2013-
2014Final Four

Four tournament appearances in five years with three Final Fours and a championship? The only program not signing up for that right now is UConn.

The trade-off for Kentucky is having a brand new team every season. Calipari hasn’t been shy about his disposable roster strategy. He signs the very best recruits he can get, watches them go pro six months later and does it all over again. Add in Miller’s close relationship with Calipari and you could see how the Arizona coach might consider trying to mimick Cal’s approach.

Would that be a good deal, Real Wildcats fans? Would you be fine with each season starting with a lineup of strangers if it means finally getting back to the Final Four?

I’m not ready for that yet. I really enjoyed watching Nick Johnson progress over three seasons. I’m excited about having the chance to see what Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski can do as physically mature juniors.

At the same time I realize if you want to win you need great players. I have no problem with Aaron Gordon following the rules and earning an NBA paycheck as quickly as possible. I’m glad he will be replaced on the roster by Stanley Johnson who is already projected as a top-five pick in next year’s draft. But I don’t want the Arizona program to wade out any deeper into short-timer waters.

Being done with one one-and-done per season seems like a good balance to me. A single uber-elite freshman blending in with experienced teammates worked well in 2014 and I hope we see a repeat performance this winter. There isn’t a need to go all-in on rookies each year.

The other thing to keep in mind is you can’t just snap your fingers and become Kentucky West. There are only so many blue-chip prospects in a particular class and Calipari isn’t going to stop getting most of them.

So hang in there, Cat fans. Sean Miller’s program is close. Yes, painfully close, but I’m willing to “honor the process” and wait as Miller continues to follow his recipe.

NBA-ready talent makes a fine dessert but doesn’t need to be the main course.

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