Lute Olson turned 70 years old on Sept. 22 and, apparently, he has no intentions of retiring anytime soon as the University of Arizona basketball coach.
As if any of us who follow college hoops – and the recruiting world whose dynamics weigh so heavily on who gets NCAA tournament bids in March and cuts down nets in April – needed any reminder, one was delivered Thursday afternoon.
J.P. Prince (Memphis White Station High), one of the top half-dozen point guards in the national Class of 2005 – and I’m leaning toward the conservative in that estimate – announced for the Wildcats Thursday.
He’s the third commitment Olson and his staff have received, joining swingman Marcus Williams (6-foot-6, Seattle Roosevelt) from a few weeks ago and forward Fendi Onobun (6-7, Alief, Texas, Taylor) from last spring.
And this is for a program that has 11 underclassmen on its current roster.
Do the math: The NCAA max is 13 scholarship players, so we can assume that Olson is also making an assumption that at least one of those underclassmen will be NBA-bound next spring.
The most likely of those is (along with junior swingman Hassan Adams) to take a pro hike after the upcoming season is 6-3 sophomore point guard Mustafa Shakur, whose pro stock should surpass many of those at his position that were rated above him on the pre-season All-America candidates list.
That’s why it was so critical to the program’s continuity next season that Olson – never one to succumb to leaving anything to "chance" – snag a high-caliber point guard in case Shakur is about to spend his final season as a Wildcat.
The Prince commitment also adds another notch to that "Point Guard U" reputation of the U of A that has been honed since Olson relocated to Tucson from Iowa City in the spring of 1983.
From Steve Kerr to Matt Othick to Khalid Reeves to Damon Stoudamire to Mike Bibby to Jason Terry to Jason Gardner to Shakur and to – as soon as 2005-06, in Prince – Olson has always operated with one of the best point guards in the country running things on the floor for him.
Is Olson a "better" recruiter than, say, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski or Rick Pitino?
Trying to separate those four in a pecking order would involve some very fine hair-splitting.
But one thing is certain: Until the day Olson does decide that he’s had enough of spending long July days and nights in Las Vegas, or Indianapolis or Teaneck, N.J., gymnasiums, three or four of the very best high school players in America will continue to find their ways to Tucson every year.