April 24, 2011

Pangos: Calif. teammates sold on Arizona

CARSON, Calif. - When Grant Jerrett and Eric Cooper visited Arizona last fall they saw everything they wanted in a college basketball program and soon after both La Verne (Calif.) Lutheran standouts made their commitments.

It was a multi-year success story for coach Sean Miller and his assistant coaches, who had been closely following Jerrett on the AAU circuit pretty much since arriving in Tucson.

All the attention and the mail and the history of Arizona's basketball program was nice but Jerrett said Saturday at the Pangos Spring Sweet 16 what really sold him and Cooper, a 2013 prospect, on the Wildcats was the reception they saw all around campus during that fateful fall trip.

"We went to a football game and we went to a basketball game and the fans are really loyal to the teams and they really support them," Jerrett said.

"It was a scrimmage and it was sold out, a scrimmage game. They were waiting outside for an hour for a scrimmage and that really caught my eye and it was what made me commit."

Both are big pick-ups for Arizona but especially Jerrett a 6-foot-9, 210-pounder who is rated as the fifth-best power forward nationally and the No. 12 prospect in the 2012 class by Rivals.com, one of 20 five-star recruits and only one of two from California. The other is Oakland Bishop O'Dowd forward Brandon Ashley, who's still uncommitted.

UCLA was also making a serious push for Jerrett's services, the entire Pac-10 was recruiting him and numerous national programs were involved but Jerrett said he was most comfortable in Tucson, making multiple trips there before his decision, and now nearly five months later isn't regretting the choice at all.

Arizona's run to the Elite Eight certainly didn't hurt.

"(Miller) is doing a great job," Jerrett said. "He has a plan each year for his players and they really take care of each and every player. They take care of them after college as well, that's what they were talking about, too. I really felt connected with them and I was comfortable with them.

"I knew right away once I came home I wanted to go there. Eric and I talked about the positive things about it and we didn't see any negatives. We didn't see any other school like that. We saw some other schools around the country and we didn't see any coaches like that or fans like that so we knew that was the place to go."

And after all the recruiting mail and all the visits and all the researching about Arizona's program it was that fall trip last year - and seeing the thousands of fans waiting outside the arena for a scrimmage - that really put the Wildcats over the top.

"That's what I want," Jerrett said. "We don't have huge fan support at our school and I always wanted to play in front of big crowds. They treat their players like NBA players, too."

Other News & Notes: Arik Armstead missed USC's spring game Saturday but Trojans fans have nothing to worry about.

The 6-foot-8, 280-pound lineman from Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove who committed to USC last June was at the Sweet 16 playing power forward for Team Superstars. Armstead is slotted to play defensive end for the Trojans and he said that playing basketball in college is also in the cards.

His father, wearing a USC football t-shirt, said it's still undecided whether Armstead will work out at the upcoming Palo Alto NIKE Football Camp.

** Other players who stood out during Saturday's play included Vallejo, Calif., point guard Tajai Johnson (Team Superstars), Chandler (Ariz.) Basha guard Jaron Hopkins (Compton Magic), Orange (Calif.) Lutheran small forward Payton Banks (Compton Magic) and Phoenix (Ariz.) Paradise Valley's Paul Watson (Compton Magic).

Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol point guard Calaen Robinson was arguably the top three-point shooter in attendance. The lefty hit at least four from deep including the game-winner on Saturday afternoon.

Jerrett, Cooper and La Verne (Calif.) Damien forward Chris Reyes looked the part for Belmont Shore. Shooting guard Stanley Johnson, a 2014 prospect, and point guard Tyler Dorsey, a 2015 recruit, also have bright futures for Dinos Trigonis' club.


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