Sean Miller was born and raised in a small town in Pennsylvania. He played his college ball at the University of Pittsburgh. Once he became an assistant coach, he never ventured farther west than Madison, Wisconsin. His lone head coaching gig came at Xavier, located in the heart of Cincinnati.
So when Miller left Xavier for Tucson in 2009 to become the next head coach at the University of Arizona, one question was raised by nearly every analyst in the country: would a guy who had spent the first 40 years of his life on the east coast be able to coach, recruit and live in the triple-digit deserts of Arizona?
As far as recruiting goes, the answer has been a resounding "yes."
The official Arizona basketball Twitter account tweeted something pretty impressive earlier this week.
Two programs in college basketball have had top-10 recruiting classes each of the last three years: Arizona and Kentucky. #APlayersProgram— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) July 29, 2013
In 2011, ESPN ranked Arizona's four-man class at No. 7 in their rankings. Nick Johnson is the lone player from the class still in Tucson, though he's been a two-year starter under Miller and could contend for Pac-12 Player of the Year honors this season. Josiah Turner and Sidiki Johnson left the program due to disciplinary issues, while Angelo Chol elected to transfer to San Diego St. this past summer due to a lack of playing time.
Last year's class, ranked third by ESPN, featured three top-15 prospects in Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, as well as top-100 sharpshooter Gabe York. Jerrett headed to the NBA after one season, while Ashley, Tarczewski and York all figure to play major roles on a team most have in their preseason top-five.
This year's incoming class is led by phenom Aaron Gordon and five-star wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Gordon shined with Team USA this summer, leading some to believe he's the best prospect in the 2013 class outside of Andrew Wiggins. Hollis-Jefferson was also invited to the Team USA camp and wowed onlookers with his defense and fundamentally-sound approach to the game. ESPN has this group of incoming freshmen ranked fifth.
"Miller landed the ultimate recruiting gem out West in the 2013 class with McDonald's All American Aaron Gordon, the No. 4 overall prospect in the ESPN 100. Gordon is a hybrid 4-man who can explode in transition, gobble up rebounds and hand out nifty assists," writes Joel Francisco of RecruitingNation. "Combine Gordon with another McDonald's All American in ultra-versatile lockdown defender Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and the Wildcats are chock full of talent at the forward positions going forward."
Miller also brought in Derrick Williams and Solomon Hill as part of his inaugural recruiting class. Williams was taken with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 Draft, while Hill was taken by the Pacers in the first round of the 2013 Draft.
That's awfully impressive for any coach in the country, let alone a guy who left for Arizona after Kevin O'Neill and Russ Pennell served as interim head coaches following Lute Olson's abrupt departure.
All of Miller's hard work on the recruiting trail has paid off. In his second season in Tucson, Williams led the Wildcats to the Elite 8. If not for a missed three-point attempt at the buzzer, UA would've been headed to its fifth Final Four in school history. This past season, a last-second three from Ohio State prevented the 'Cats from another Elite 8 appearance.
ESPN's Andy Katz once wrote, "Whoever takes the Arizona job will have a six-year rebuilding job ahead of him," as the athletic department began its coaching search four years ago.
The Wildcats now have their eyes set on a Final Four appearance. On the recruiting trail, Miller has numerous top prospects for the 2014 recruiting class interested in Arizona, including top-10 standouts Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow.
For a guy who had never coached at any level west of the Mississippi River, Miller has quickly cemented himself as not only one of the best recruiters in the country, but one of the game's top up-and-coming coaches. There are bright days ahead in the desert.