Selling Arizona: Historic freshman class reflects on becoming Wildcats

Jeff Gross - Getty Images

Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York, who make up the most-touted freshman class in school history, discuss why they decided to become Wildcats.

Recruiting is the name of the game in college basketball. If a coaching staff is unable to lure the nation's best talent to campus, it's awfully tough for that program to achieve success when the calendar flips to March every year.

Sean Miller gets it. And through his tireless efforts on the recruiting trail, he has secured the highest-ranked freshman class in school history.

Take a look at 6'8 forward Brandon Ashley. A native of the Bay Area, he had offers to just about every program on the west coast. John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats even came calling in the weeks before he made his final decision. In the end, though, Ashley felt like UA just presented the right package.

"When a player chooses a college, he wants somewhere where he feels comfortable, where he has a relationship with the coaches and with the players," said Ashley, who was picked by one national pundit as the Freshman of the Year earlier in the week.

"Arizona was the perfect fit for me."

Grant Jerrett was the first player to commit to UA's 2012 class. A 6'10 forward capable of banging in the paint and also stepping out to shoot behind the arc, Jerrett's commitment back in November of 2010 was a huge building block for the Wildcats' recruiting efforts.

All players begin their college careers with hope of one day playing professionally. At Arizona, a player has access to the Richard Jefferson Gymnasium, an NBA-caliber weight room and one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the nation with Chris Rounds. For Jerrett, who has added 27 pounds since arriving on campus in June, these facilities and amenities were some of the main reasons why he wanted to become a Wildcat.

"Definitely. They played a huge role on why I decided to come here," Jerrett said of UA's facilities. "And not just that, but the fans, the coaching staff and the future teammates I would be playing with."

For guard Gabe York, who has played both the point and off-guard position in recent years, it was his belief in coach Miller to transform his game and make him the best player possible that helped him decide on UA. Making the jump the high school ball to the Division-I level is arguably the biggest adjustment a player will have to make in his entire career.

"I'm trying to make the transition from playing the two to the one, and knowing that Sean Miller played the point guard position in college at Pitt made me think he was going to help me more than anyone."

And then examine the situation Kaleb Tarczewski was facing as the top-ranked center in America. The final player to commit to Arizona this past year, everyone felt like he was a lock for the Kansas Jayhawks. It would be coach Miller's toughest challenge yet to secure the seven-foot, 255-pound behemoth.

Many schools tried to lure Tarczewski to town. Whether it be with the promise of a starting spot or the loudest fans around, he heard it all. And while the first-rate facilities and a program's history were nice bonuses, nothing could top coach Miller's ability to be personable and never ask him to make a decision he wasn't comfortable making.

"He's probably one of the best," said Tarczewski, reflecting on how well the head coach sold the University of Arizona.

"With coach Miller, it almost feels like he's part of your family. That's really why I chose to come here."

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Follow me on Twitter: @ScottColeman_UA

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