On Friday when most of the college basketball world was scrambling to host “Midnight Madness” events, the Arizona basketball team was done for the day. The Cats have chosen to bypass the pomp of the first day of official basketball practice and focus on another event entirely.
Sean Miller was all smiles at last year's Red/Blue game.
Kentucky spent $100,000 on lighting alone for their Midnight Madness, while Sean Miller was likely having dinner at the same time. Teams scrambled to bring their top recruits for their events, while Arizona bided their time.
There was no Midnight at McKale. No Friday Night with Sean Miller. Arizona simply had a normal day of practice and will instead spend their time and energy this weekend with the annual Red/Blue game.
Arizona will have over 14,000 fans in the stands on Saturday, creating a great environment for recruits. Instead of competing with 20 other programs, Arizona carves out their own weekend and can bring in most, if not all of their top recruits for official and unofficial visits.
“With that type of atmosphere on that weekend that we have here in Tucson, we really target some of the best prospects in the country, future players who can help us do great things,” Miller explained. “To have them here during that weekend and experience that, that says it all.”
Last year the event was very successful, helping to land Kaleb Tarczewski and introducing the program to many other younger prospects.
“If you talk about Kaleb a year ago, Kaleb was the one who was uncommitted at this time,” Miller explained. “Having him at the Red-Blue Game helped us secure him, no question about it. No matter what we talked about on the telephone, or how much you think this atmosphere is special, until you're actually here you don't feel it. It helps the future. It's something that I believe continues to be as crucial today as it was the day I came here."
The second added bonus of bringing in recruits to the Red/Blue game is they (and the fans) will get to see a more polished team on the floor. They will be far from a finished product, but they will get a better idea of what Arizona basketball is really like a week plus into full practices.
The recruits and fans will also get a chance to see the 1988 team reunited. Last year the team hosted a number of locked out NBA players, this year they honor the school’s first Final Four squad.
“To be able to bring them back in front of our group where our own team can be around them and the future of Arizona recruiting and to see their reaction, to me it is a really important weekend,” Miller said.
Miller sees the weekend as combining three elements, the past, present and future. The 1988 team, as well as honoring Andre Iguodala celebrates the past. The recruits on hand celebrate the future and getting his current team scrimmaging in front of 14,000 fans rewards the present players.
“It's great to be our guys out in McKale in front of 14,500 people, a super-charged environment,” Miller said. “It only continues to get their feet wet and remind them of how important winning is and how much people care and support our program. Every time they are out there in front of our crowd that is to their advantage.”