No longer does Arizona have such a glut of talent at wing next season.
The school confirmed on Thursday that McDonald’s All-American shooting guard Terrance Ferguson will pursue professional opportunities instead of playing for the Wildcats. Ferguson, Rivals.com’s No. 14 prospect in the 2016 class, is expected to sign with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s National Basketball League.
“I hope this next chapter of his basketball career goes well, and his goal of one day becoming an NBA player is realized,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in a release from the school.
While Ferguson’s decision to turn pro may reignite the conversation about whether more elite prospects will consider skipping college, the reality is it shouldn’t. The high-profile prospects who have passed on college to play professionally overseas have typically done so because of eligibility concerns.
Brandon Jennings was unsure if he could meet the academic requirements to play for Arizona when he opted instead to sign with Italy’s Lottomatica Virtus Roma in 2008. Emmanuel Mudiay faced the possibility of a lengthy NCAA investigation into his eligibility when he chose to head to China instead of playing for SMU in 2014.
Ferguson’s situation is similar to Mudiay’s.
Both Mudiay and Ferguson previously attended Prime Prep Academy, the heavily scrutinized Texas school that created NCAA issues for numerous players before it finally closed last year. Ferguson also graduated this spring from Advance Preparatory International, an offshoot of Prime Prep.
With no guarantee that the NCAA would clear him to play at Arizona next season, Ferguson had two options. Either he could take his chances with the Wildcats, or he could begin his pro career a year ahead of time.
Playing against grown men in a foreign country is not easy for anyone just months removed from high school, but Ferguson’s transition could be a bit more straightforward than some of his predecessors. The season is shorter in Australia and the culture shock should be diminished in an English-speaking country.
While losing a five-star prospect would be a blow to any program, Arizona is better positioned than most teams would be to absorb Ferguson’s absence. The Wildcats will miss Ferguson’s ability to space the floor with his outside shooting prowess, but they still have a handful of key perimeter returners and two Rivals top 20 incoming freshmen.
The only certain starter is Allonzo Trier, a 6-foot-4 wing who averaged 14.8 points per game as a freshman and also improved defensively throughout the season. Also back are junior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, senior combo guard Kadeem Allen and small forward Ray Smith, Arizona’s most heralded recruit in the 2015 class before a torn ACL sidelined him all of this past season.
Joining that quartet are slashing 6-foot-4 wing Rawle Alkins and 6-foot-5 scoring point guard Kobi Simmons. Look for Miller to play Smith as an undersized power forward in stretches in order to accommodate all of his perimeter talent.