The Arizona Wildcats' second season of transition to coach Sean Miller began Monday, after sophomore forward D.J. Shumpert elected to transfer and junior college forward Jesse Perry committed.
In Perry, the Wildcats will get a top-75 junior college forward with perimeter shooting skills, another strong option among their few bigger players. Without Shumpert, the Wildcats will lose a well-liked local player from Santa Rita High School who played sparingly the past two seasons.
Shumpert was unavailable for comment, but Miller said in a UA statement that the two mutually agreed he would be better off playing in another program.
"D.J. Shumpert is a fantastic kid and was an exceptional teammate and representative of our basketball program during his two years at Arizona," Miller said. "Like a lot of young players he wants to put himself in a position to have a more significant role as a basketball player in his future."
Miller said Shumpert would continue to work out this spring in the Wildcats' off-season conditioning program, though neither the UA statement nor Shumpert's mother, Vicki Watson, would say what schools he might consider now.
Shumpert was heavily recruited by UAB out of Santa Rita, then opted to play for Lute Olson, who retired two months after Shumpert's August 2008 commitment. Shumpert played only 11 minutes in four games as a freshman under interim coach Russ Pennell and just 21 minutes over 10 games this season under Miller.
But Watson said Miller did not revoke her son's scholarship and had no complaints about the parting.
"It's no disrespect to Sean - he's building his own program," Watson said. The holdover UA players such as Shumpert "were Lute Olson recruits. Sean has a different program, and it is what it is.
"I have nothing but praise for Sean. I was happy when he came here, and I'm still happy he's here."
Shumpert's departure will give Miller a much-needed scholarship to offer for the class of 2011-12. With Perry committing Sunday night and that scholarship going to Perry, the Wildcats still have only one other scholarship to offer next season and none for the 2011-12 season, though further transfers or other player departures could create more openings.
Arizona is still pursuing New York post player Kadeem Jack, plus high school All-America guards Doron Lamb and Josh Selby, among others, this spring. Miller said last week he hopes to eventually have three or four players in his 2010 class, having already added five last spring after becoming UA's head coach in April 2009.
But already in their 2010 class, the Wildcats have a highly regarded shooter in Phoenix guard Daniel Bejarano, a scoring-minded combo guard in Los Angeles guard Jordin Mayes and now Perry, a big shooter who can complement or put additional pressure on senior-to-be Jamelle Horne.
Over his two seasons at John A. Logan Community College in Illinois, Perry improved both his academics and his game. He graduated from St. Louis' Gateway Tech High School in 2008 without a qualifying test score and had only 179 pounds on his 6-8 frame.
Now, Logan assistant coach Kyle Smithpeters said, Perry weighs 210 and is in good shape to graduate this spring with a two-year degree, which would qualify him for Division I basketball. He is expected to enroll at Arizona during the first full summer session.
"The biggest thing is Jesse played so hard," Smithpeters said. "He has the ability to step out and shoot, and he's got a lot of aspects to his game."
UA associate head coach Archie Miller discovered Perry in November, and the Wildcats kept recruiting him all season. By the time he visited Tucson over the weekend, Perry was all but sold: He committed on Sunday night before his two-day visit even ended.
"I think he was more or less just wanting to check it out," Smithpeters said. "He grew up watching Arizona basketball, so he was interested in the tradition, but he was interested to see what direction the program was going."