Basketball Scandal Makes Impact on Top Recruits has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.
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Copyright 2017 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)


The top half of the Arizona Wildcats' 2018 recruiting board is shattered, less than two weeks after assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested on federal bribery and fraud charges.

On Saturday, five-star center Bol Bol became the latest five-star prospect from the class of 2018 to drop the Wildcats.

Bol also eliminated USC, which had an assistant coach arrested along with Richardson and eight other college basketball figures on Sept. 26 as a result of a sweeping FBI investigation.

Speaking at the same USA Basketball minicamp in Colorado, Jahvon Quinerly told reporters that he remains committed to the Wildcats "for now" while declining to comment on allegations he took $15,000 from a sports agent via Richardson.

"I thought it was crazy," the 7-foot-2-inch Bol told Scout's Josh Gershon. "The schools being investigated, I personally want to stay away from them. I'm down to Kentucky and Oregon."

Three other five-star targets have scurried away since Richardson's arrest: Florida forward Nassir Little committed to North Carolina, Canadian forward Simi Shittu canceled a planned Nov. 4 recruiting visit to Arizona while Canadian forward R.J. Barrett, the top-rated player in the class of 2018, announced a top three of Oregon, Kentucky and Duke.

"I think a lot of these recruitments are ones that Arizona was doing a very good job in," Gershon told the Star. "There was every reason to believe that Arizona was leading for Bol and Little. And they were very involved with Barrett, were definitely one of his top two or three options.

"It would have likely been the top class in the country."

The Wildcats could be helped if some some of the top 2018 prospects decide to hold off until spring, when allegations against the UA might be resolved one way or the other.

But, as Little and others have shown so far, that's not the trend.

"I thought the initial announcement would cause a lot of these kids to take a step back and see how it all plays out," Gershon said."But it actually helped speed up some of these kids' recruitments. If you're a believer that this investigation is going to hit other programs, the first ones to get implicated are the ones that are going to suffer."

Quinerly, guard Brandon Williams and forward Shareef O'Neal all remain committed to the UA, but that could change at any time, too.

Quinerly told reporters in Colorado Springs that his family has hired an attorney. Quinerly denied to say if he took any money from the agents via Richardson, and said he has not spoken with FBI investigators.

"I'm still committed to Arizona right now, but I'm just taking it slow," Quinerly told Scout's Evan Daniels in his first public comments since Richardson's arrest. "I got a lawyer. He's just giving me step-by-step what to do and what to say, things like that. He's just helping me a lot.

"He said I should be fine."

In the federal complaint, a sports agent refers to Quinerly as "the guy with the 15 grand we gave him." If the NCAA later proves he took an amount that high, Quinerly could become ineligible for his entire freshman season.

The allegations in the federal complaint led to what Quinerly called "the worst week of my life."

"I mean, I came home from school to a reporter outside my house," Quinerly told Scout. "It was just too hectic for me and my family. We got hit with it at the wrong time.

"I committed early so I could get everything off my chest, get the stress off my chest and just focus on this and high school season and just grow as a player. This right here, I'm going to get through it, but it's been tough this past week. Being able to come out here (with USA Basketball) and play helped me a lot."

Quinerly told ESPN's Jeff Borzello that has not spoken to Richardson since the FBI news first broke, but has talked with UA coach Sean Miller.

"He was upset as well," Quinerly said of Miller. "We had a brief conversation, and it was about just me becoming the best player I can be for this high school season and being ready for the next level."

Williams remains committed provided no major issues surface, according to his father, but O'Neal's future might be more tentative.

O'Neal's Twitter bio still identifies him as a UA commit, and he Tweeted Saturday he was looking forward to taking an official visit to Arizona on Oct. 20 for the Red-Blue Game. But six analysts posting picks on 24/7 Sports' "Crystal Ball" feature now say he'll choose Kentucky, even though the site lists O'Neal as a "hard commit" to Arizona.

Andrew Slater, a national analyst for 24/7 Sports, predicts an O'Neal flip. He said the son of longtime basketball star Shaquille O'Neal is likely to visit Kentucky next weekend along with Bol, a close friend and former teammate on the Cal Supreme travel team.

While all the recruiting fallout suggests Arizona will have to scramble again next spring to fill out a 2018 recruiting class, the Wildcats have some experience doing so under Miller.

In 2016, they managed to bring in Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons, Keanu Pinder and Dylan Smith during the spring signing period.

Miller has "historically done a great job in the spring, getting the best available names," Gershon said.

"And right now, you make sure you keep Brandon Williams and Shareef O'Neal committed."

Credit: Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star

October 8, 2017


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