In this odd time of virtual recruitments, Grant Weitman didn’t need to click into a Zoom chat with Wildcats coaches, stream highlights of McKale Center games or take a FaceTime tour of campus to know that walking on to the Arizona men’s basketball team was for him.
The program is in his blood.
A just-graduated senior from Salpointe Catholic High School who will join the Wildcats next season as a walk-on guard, Weitman grew up going to UA basketball games as part of a well-accomplished family of athletes.
His grandfather, Paul Weitman, was a former basketball player and high school basketball coach in Georgia who moved to Tucson in the 1970s to take over a Buick dealership, eventually creating the Royal Automotive Group. While doing so, Paul Weitman also became one of Lute Olson’s closest friends, named a Breeders’ Cup champion horse after the former UA coach — Midnight Lute — and is still a regular fixture around Arizona’s home and away games.
Grant’s father, Neal, was a two-sport star at Salpointe who went on to play football for the University of San Diego before returning to Tucson and eventually becoming the Royal Automotive Group’s general manager.
Grant’s cousin, Luc Rosenblatt, was a standout for Salpointe who served as a manager for the UA basketball team last season.
Then there was the gang at Salpointe last season. Grant’s coach, Jim Reynolds, is the father of UA basketball operations director Ryan Reynolds. And two of the Lancers’ standouts were sons of UA coaches — guard Jordan Gainey (son of assistant coach Justin Gainey, who is now on the Marquette staff) and Braden Miller (the youngest son of head coach Sean Miller).
On top of all that, there’s the countless time Grant Weitman has already logged at McKale Center — in the stands. The 18-year-old is not old enough to remember the height of the Olson era but was there in person for the end of it.
“I know I went to some games but I vaguely remember them,” Grant says. “I kind of remember the stage between him and Sean Miller and then Sean’s teams … I got to meet (Olson) but I was never around him all that much. That was more my grandpa.”
So that’s already more than enough credentials for Grant Weitman to become Miller’s latest walk-on player at Arizona … but there’s one more thing.
Weitman can also play the game.
While helping lead Salpointe to the Class 4A state title last season, Weitman averaged 15.9 points and five rebounds per game and had better than a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio — all while often being asked to guard the opposing team’s big man.
When it was over, Weitman was named the Class 4A Kino Region’s offensive player of the year, while Harvard-bound teammate Evan Nelson was named the region’s player of the year. Along with Gainey and Miller, Weitman and Nelson helped the Lancers beat Peoria for the state title on Feb. 29 in Phoenix.
“It was a great experience,” Grant Weitman said. “We had some good guys on the team and it was all seniors so it was really fun, and great chemistry. We were a great team and it was great to win the first state championship in school history, something that I’ll always remember.”
Weitman’s efforts in the 54-48 overtime win were typical of his efforts. Weitman scored 15 points, hitting the first basket in overtime on a putback and then, while Peoria applied full-court pressure, passed from midcourt to Braden Miller, who scored to give Salpointe a four-point lead it never lost.
After that game, after that season, there’s no way you can tell Jim Reynolds that Weitman is walking on to Arizona just because he knows a few people.
“Grant earned it,” Reynolds said. “He was the offensive player of the year. First-team all 4A. You know, you can look at him and he’s got that kind of baby face, but he’s a competitor. He’ll get after it. There’s a lot of different things that he’s good at, and you combine it with his basketball IQ and he can pick up something really fast.”
Already with a mind-boggling 108 assists to just 15 turnovers as a junior in 2018-19 — “he just wouldn’t turn it over,” Reynolds said — Weitman evolved into what his coach called a jack of all trades as a senior.
That was an especially necessary thing considering Salpointe’s lack of size. Positionless on offense, with anyone grabbing the defensive rebound allowed to take the ball downcourt, the Lancers often turned to the 6-foot-3 Weitman to guard the opponent’s top big man. No matter if the height disadvantage was three, five or even seven inches — as when he faced up with Catalina Foothills’ 6-10 Will Menaugh.
“He was one of our bigger guys and was intelligent enough to use what he had, against Menaugh or a lot of the big guys we played against last season,” Reynolds said. “We were in Phoenix and played against a kid at St. Patrick-St. Vincent who was 6-11, then we played (Gilbert) Perry, who had 6-10 and 6-11 (players), and (Phoenix) Sunnyslope had 6-8, 6-10 and 6-11.”
Salpointe beat all those teams anyway. While Catalina Foothills did beat the Lancers 70-67 on Jan. 21, they twice avenged that loss — including a 56-50 win in the state semifinals.
“On offense it was easy for us because we were all fast,” Weitman said. “If you put a big guy on any of us it would be easy to go by him. But on defense it was a little more difficult. There was a lot of doubling in the post.”
At Arizona, Weitman won’t have those sort of worries. He’s expected to be a guard on the Wildcats’ scout team in practice, more likely to face James Akinjo or Jemarl Baker than Jordan Brown or Christian Koloko.
But no matter where he is, Weitman won’t likely have a problem finding his place.
He’s a Wildcat now, after all.
“He’s easy to coach,” Reynolds said. “Grant’s one of those guys who fits the role of a walk-on perfectly. He’s so excited about being part of that program and will relish every day.”