The intriguing possibility of an elite all-Arizona backcourt for the Wildcats ended Saturday, when Mesa's Jahii Carson committed to ASU.
Carson, a 5-foot-11-inch, 170-pound guard rated among the country's Top 50 players in the class of 2011, made his decision just three days after Gilbert's Nick Johnson committed to Arizona.
Though their quick and contrasting moves suggested they might be interconnected, Carson's mother said her son chose ASU over the UA, Washington and UNLV primarily because it offered a better opportunity, noting that the UA already has Momo Jones, Jordin Mayes and now Johnson as point guards.
"Jahii's ultimate goal is to go in with the ball in his hands, and be a difference-maker," Vanae Carson said. "In the back of Jahii's mind, he knows ASU needs a point guard more than any other school in the Pac-10."
Chad Groth, who remains close to Jahii Carson as a Phoenix tournament organizer, said Carson told him the UA had not contacted him recently.
"I sensed Arizona kind of gave up once Nick committed," Groth said. "I still believe Nick and Jahii would have been one of the best backcourts in Arizona history."
Vanae Carson said UA assistant coach James Whitford did send a text message immediately after Johnson's commitment, saying the staff still wanted Carson and was still recruiting a point guard.
Vanae Carson said her son was aware that Johnson did not name Carson when speaking publicly about other point guards he wanted to bring along to the UA, but that Johnson's statement did not have "a lot to do with it."
Jahii Carson did not reply to a message seeking comment.
The UA now has two remaining point guard targets: Josiah Turner of Sacramento and Quinn Cook of Hyattsville, Md.
The Wildcats' first order of business when school begins this week won't be on the court.
First, they will have to be track stars. Or at least competent runners.
Players who make specified mile-run times this week - 5:30 for guards, 5:45 for wings and 5:55 for big men - won't have to start conditioning drills until mid-September. Others will start immediately.
Last year, when UA coach Sean Miller first tested his players with the mile drill, nine of them failed to make their times. Most of them are expected to pass this year, based on off-season conditioning results that Miller and performance enhancement coach Chris Rounds are seeing.
"We had a very productive summer," Miller said. "Most of them have been in Tucson for the summer. They worked really hard in the weight room. And summertime sets the tone for a good fall. I'm excited."
Miller said he has seen good conditioning results from freshmen and returning players alike, with one of the few setbacks coming when he gave freshman guard Daniel Bejarano a week off to recover from a hand injury that resulted from a scary car crash on Interstate 10. While juco transfer Jesse Perry was unharmed in more of a fender-bender, Bejarano's accident was far more severe.
"He's fortunate to be alive," Miller said. "His steering wheel locked up and he rolled a couple of times. But he's OK. As any young person would be in that situation, he's thankful. I think he's fine mentally."
As it turned out, Miller experienced a little I-10 drama of his own this week - in a good way.
According to Michelle Johnson, mother of newly committed guard Nick Johnson, Miller turned around his family as they were en route to attend a John Mayer concert in Phoenix because he was summoned to McKale Center, where Johnson wanted to commit in person.
The UA's second home game, on Nov. 18, will be against New Mexico State, instead of San Diego State, because the Aztecs needed the date free to enter an exempt event. The UA and San Diego State had an agreement to begin another home-and-home series this season but it is uncertain if the series will be played in future seasons.
Additionally, the UA's scheduled Dec. 27 home game with NAU has been moved to Dec. 16, because the Lumberjacks were handed a Big Sky date at Montana on Dec. 29. The move means the UA won't have a game between a Dec. 22 home date with Robert Morris and its Pac-10 opener on Dec. 30 at Oregon.
Because of television, the UA's Jan. 1 game at OSU was moved to the evening of Jan. 2, and the Wildcats will flip-flop their Los Angeles weekends, hosting UCLA on Jan. 27 and USC on Jan. 29, while traveling to USC on Feb. 24 and to UCLA on Feb. 26.
• Turner is scheduled to visit Arizona for the Oct. 24 Red/Blue game a week after he takes in the Late Night in the Phog ceremonies at Kansas. He also has lined up visits to Louisville and Oregon next month. Turner said he has not decided what his last visit will be, though he is considering Connecticut, Oklahoma and UCLA.
• Sophomore Derrick Williams will have his name added to the UA's "Ring of Fame" at McKale Center for being named last season's Pac-10 freshman of the year.
• Former UA recruiting target Kadeem Jack is now listing a final four of Arkansas, West Virginia, Rutgers and Miami.
On StarNet: Read more on reporter Bruce Pascoe's blog at go.azstarnet.com/pascoe