Former Arizona basketball recruit Solomon Hill may be closer to returning to the Wildcats' 2009 recruiting class.
While Hill sent a text message to the Star on Sunday night that he has "not committed," Rivals.com's Jerry Meyer reported earlier in the day that Hill indicated he was swinging back to the Wildcats after initially decommitting in the wake of Lute Olson's retirement and then committing to USC.
"The way things look, I'm headed to Arizona," Hill said in the text message to Rivals.com. "I like Coach (Sean) Miller and the new situation. There is a stable base at Arizona, and it's looking good there."
Hill's was one of three Wildcat commitments lost after Olson announced his retirement on Oct. 23, with Abdul Gaddy signing with Washington and Mike Moser opting for UCLA. But Hill was the only one of the three who did not sign a binding letter of intent and thus is able to change his mind without penalty.
Meyer, who has followed Hill for several years, said Hill sent him his message late Saturday night, after Ukrainian big man Kyryl Natyazhko announced his commitment to the Wildcats.
"Arizona was always the biggest school for him," Meyer said Sunday. "I don't think he was discouraged (with USC). I don't think he was enamored by the system they ran there. One of the things he does very well is penetrate. He's a very good ballhandler, too."
If the Wildcats can manage to snag both players after the signing period opens Wednesday, they can forge a new frontcourt with power forward Jamelle Horne to go along with guards Kyle Fogg, Zane Johnson and (if he returns) Nic Wise.
"They still need some capable bodies," Scout.com analyst Dave Telep said. But the two possible additions are a "major, major help. To walk onto the job the first week and leave with two guys like this … I didn't think he'd be able to do it."
Hill was not available for further comment Sunday and his father, Solomon Crawford, has not responded to messages for several consecutive days.
Hill, a 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pound senior at Los Angeles Fairfax High School, is rated No. 28 overall in the class of 2009 by Rivals.com, No. 64 by Scout.com and No. 54 by ESPN. While he's versatile enough to play any position on the wing or possibly even power forward when needed, he does not yet have a consistent outside shot.
UA is also recruiting juco big man Jarrid Famous of New York's Westchester Community College, but even with just Natyazhko, the Wildcats have a steady defender inside who is crafty offensively and has some range to his shot.
"He's a skilled five-man," Telep said of Natyazhko. "He passes out of the post, has good enough toughness. He has good athleticism for a guy that big. He's not a freak athletically but he's athletic. And he has a high basketball IQ — he knows what he's doing out there."
Natyazhko also expressed a clear desire to improve during an interview on Saturday night from Kentucky, where he played in the Derby Classic all-star game.
It was the same desire that prompted him to accept a scholarship at Florida's IMG Academy just in time for the 2007-08 season, even though he knew virtually no English at the time.
"It was a challenge for myself as a person but I believed it was most important to challenge myself as a basketball player," said Natyazhko, the son of a factory worker. Also, "my mom wanted me to go there to learn English and be a good student."
Natyazhko has not yet visited the UA campus but said he plans to soon. He has already visited ASU, another one of his finalists.
Even though the Wildcats have at least six scholarships to offer entering the spring signing period, Miller said he may not fill all of them this year and instead give them out to 2010 players.