Earlier in the off-season, the recruiting class for Arizona in the class of 2016 took a big hit.
Five-star commit T.J. Leaf had committed to play for Arizona in 2016-17, but he later de-committed from the Wildcats and reopened his recruiting. At the time, he said the Wildcats were still in the running for his services. However, Leaf recently released his top three schools, and Arizona was not on the list (Oregon, UCLA, and San Diego State).
Without Leaf in the mix, the Wildcats didn’t have a recruit for their class of 2016. With star players on the way out, and the potential for their strong freshmen class of 2015 being one-and-done, there was a need for landing a commitment, even if it wasn’t regularly discussed.
On Saturday, the Wildcats got some good news. While on his official visit to Arizona, Finnish big man Lauri Markkanen officially committed to Sean Miller and the Wildcats, thus putting Arizona on the board in terms of 2016 recruits.
Lauri Markkanen is a 6’11”, 225-pound forward who is a native of Finland. The big man chose to play at Arizona over North Carolina and Utah.
Markkanen is a stretch-four who has strong ball handling skills and can score from all over the floor. He is a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, and is a strong shot blocker in the paint. Markkanen also gets up and down the floor rather well for a big man, and he is known for having good footwork for his size.
While playing for Finland at the Under-18 European Championships this past summer, Markkanen averaged 18.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest, while shooting 53.9% from the floor.
Some scouts say that if he was playing in the United States, he would have been a top-25 player in the class of 2016, due to his potential and skill set.
With forwards Kaleb Tarczewski and Mark Tollefsen graduating after the 2015-16 season, Markkanen has the potential to come in and be a big-time contributor right away. The Arizona front court could be one of the nation’s best in 2016-17 if center Dusan Ristic opts to return for his junior season.
After the disappointment of losing T.J. Leaf, the Arizona Wildcats addressed one of their biggest needs, and landed the first of what they hope will be a few top-tier recruits in Lauri Markkanen.