It didn’t take long for Sean Miller to find a replacement for potential one-and-done Stanley Johnson. Ray Smith will pair up with fellow commit Justin Simon, already creating an alley-oop duo for the Arizona Wildcats in 2015.
Who is Ray Smith?
Ranked the 26th best prospect by ESPN, Smith has the potential to grow into something truly spectacular. The Las Vegas High School product is straight bouncy at the wing. He flourishes in the open court, but also has a knack for throwing it down in traffic. That’s right people, Smith loves to put interior defenders on a stake and “posterize”. Aside from his innate dunking ability, Smith can also finish in traffic in a more subtle fashion, using his length and athleticism to break through and shoot over the defense. Smith’s court vision will help him fit in with Arizona’s pass heavy strategy, as he has shown the ability to pass up the rock when there is little opportunity for him to score. While Smith currently lacks the skills of a pure shooter, his mechanics reflect his potential to become more silky as he adjust over the next few years. At this young stage in his career, Smith is not a lock-down defender. His length and physical tools give Smith the frame of a defensive threat. Sean Miller is a defensive coach, and whether or not Smith is ready, Miller will demand prowess on the defensive end.
How he fits
One of the reason’s Sean Miller is arguably the best recruiter in college basketball is because he picks players that fit directly into his program, and Smith does just that. Miller runs a defense called the “pack-line”, which entails a perimeter defender and four interior defenders that lock down the paint and prevent penetration towards the basket (as seen below).
Smith’s frame and lateral quickness makes him the perfect fit to deny the ball into the paint and force jump shots. This is the type of hard nosed defensive set that leads to the transitional offense that Smith is made for. The “pack-line” defense will allow Smith to flourish in the open court, fill the lane, and finish emphatically. While Smith’s half-court game is still developing, he has a legitimate chance to make an impact during his freshman season.
The status of the 2015 recruiting class
2015 is shaping in the form of another one of Sean Miller’s elite recruiting classes. As mentioned earlier, Smith will be joining another top prospect in Justin Simon. The Wildcats will continue to dominate the West Coast pipeline as they are in other major prospects such as Ivan Robb, Stephen Zimmerman, and Chance Comanche. Arizona is also looking to spread their wings to the east coast with hopeful commitments from players such as Isaiah Briscoe, Allonzo Trier, and Diamond Stone. Unfortunately, the Wildcats don’t have enough scholarships for all these players, but there’s a strong chance one or two of these blue chips are Tucson bound in 2015.