Before Rod Odom became the first member of his 2010 recruiting class Wednesday, Sean Miller discussed the difficulty of securing high school seniors after just six months at Arizona.
"You don't have that two-year window you need in relationships," Miller said Wednesday morning. "A lot of it has started late in the game."
To compensate, Miller has become an opportunistic recruiter, having lured three would-be USC freshmen after coach Tim Floyd departed last spring and now having successfully moved over three players from his recruiting list at Xavier to Arizona.
Odom is the latest Xavier target to wind up with Miller at Arizona, as did freshmen Kyryl Natyazhko and Kevin Parrom last spring, having established a long-term relationship with Miller when he spent his sophomore year spring break checking out the Musketeer program.
Odom ultimately chose Arizona over Vanderbilt, Boston College, West Virginia and another long-time suitor, Harvard.
"Coach Miller and Book (Richardson, assistant coach) have been a part of Rod's development for almost three years," said Jamie Gallagher, Odom's coach at Middlesex School in Concord, Mass. "I know that Rod felt comfortable with coach Miller. One of the things we talked about the other night was, 'Who do you feel most comfortable with?'"
Although Miller's jump to Arizona may have given him more recruiting leverage with Odom, who emerged as a high-major prospect only last year, Miller still had to convince him to travel across the country for college. Odom is originally from Central Islip, N.Y., and attends prep school outside Boston.
"Rod and his family have put a lot of thought and time into this decision," Gallagher said. "Distance was a factor that they talked about, but ultimately they made this decision."
Long and versatile at 195 pounds, Odom is rated No. 88 overall in the class of 2010 by Rivals.com and No. 77 by ESPNU. He finished in the top 10 in his high school league in every statistical category last season, but that doesn't tell the whole story, Gallagher said.
This might: A group of dorm parents — faculty members who live on campus — fought over who would get Odom to live in their dorm this season.
"I think that speaks highly of the kid," Gallagher said. "For myself, he's been great to have on campus."
Miller could quickly get a second 2010 commitment, too, now that Phoenix North High School guard Daniel Bejarano is taking an official visit to UA this week with no other major finalists. He decommitted from Texas last week and was dropped by ASU on Monday, and his desire to stay in-state suggests UA is a leader.
Arizona has one more scholarship available for 2010 players plus any that arise from early departures or transfers. Miller has said he was looking to sign two or three this fall, though he did not specify a number for his 2010 class Wednesday.
"We're optimistic," Miller said. "I think this is a class that doesn't have to be very big. But make no mistake: Each class is really important."
The Wildcats have done some offensive skill work but have stuck primarily with defense during limited full-team workouts over the past few weeks, Miller said. Teams are allowed to practice together for up to two hours per week from Sept. 15 until the regular practice season begins Oct. 16.
Most of that time has been spent addressing philosophical defensive issues such as switching defensively, handling on-ball screens, when to pressure and how best to defend the low post, Miller said.
"We're very slowly building the things that are most important to us," Miller said. "What we do year in and year out is man-to-man defense. I think we've erred on the side of moving at a slow pace, but we're making sure these guys have (defense) at the forefront."
The drills serve to help younger players "understand the strategy of defense," according to guard Brendon Lavender, while also providing some consistency to the veterans who were still working with Lute Olson a year ago.
"Last year at this time, it was so confusing," Lavender said. "Coach Lute was running man-to-man and then as soon as the coaching staff was changed, (interim coaches Russ Pennell and Mike Dunlap) ran man-to-man a little and then switched it to a zone."
College basketball preview section, Nov. 15