In New York they postponed two basketball games due to weather. As a reminder, basketball is played indoors, presumably a weather protected sport. In Brooklyn, they’re not playing indoor basketball because of weather. Meanwhile, I spent my Sunday at the beach. I went to Cal and Stanford in jeans and a shirt. A light jacket was in tow and today I’m lightly sunburnt, sunkissed if you will (don’t tell my dermatologist brother). So while the Pac-12 is maybe only getting three teams in this year’s dance (although I do discuss Oregon State’s chances below, HBD Tink), the Conference of Champions wins. Because while winning isn’t everything, neither is winter.
A good friend of mine, who unfortunately does not get mentioned in this WANE, is both a Broncos fan and an Arizona basketball fan. He also lives in New York and went to the Super Bowl. Needless to say, Matt felt this was the worst sports weekend ever.
In this WANE we discuss how Arizona adjusts moving forward and Spencer has something of a pep talk at the tail end of it all. The Wildcats are going to be fine, don’t read message boards or ESPN comments, listen to WANE:
0:00 – First musical intro. Thoughts?
0:54 – Spencer inadvertently admits that we recorded another WANE prior to this one.
0:58 – Positivity! “Let’s talk about things going forward!” And then Spencer shows some East Bay love to Elliot Pitts.
1:59 – Adam’s debut in this WANE and he drops the term “macro” and discusses Arizona’s program and Miller’s body of work. Also a complete WANE moment when he dives into Big 12 hoops. Big mistake. But who drops “macro” outside of a corporate office. Comeonman.
4:00 – A weird noise occurs.
4:20 – Aaron Gordon’s role seemingly moves from the three to the four where many think he’s best suited. He moves closer to the basket which could help him considering he’s 9-37 over the past three games.
5:25 – TJ McConnell the scorer?
6:40 – Some effusing on Brandon and how good he is and what a bummer not getting to play is including some awkward talk about things that get Adam sad.
8:45 – Team chemistry conversation. It’s referenced, but don’t go watch the Kevin Ware video.
10:19 – Adam egregiously butchers the names of two different Jewish sports journalists. It’s really effing brutal.
11:33 – A budding conversation on how Arizona is still the conference favorite. But different.
12:07 – Is Arizona still a national title contending team? (hint: Yes.)
14:07 – What direction do the Wildcats take from here? A discussion of Matt Korcheck.
15:20 – SHOUT OUT TO TUCSON’S SABINO HIGH SCHOOL (who I once beat, 7-2, with 10Ks)
15:56 – Are the reserves reserves because they’re not good, they’re just not as good, or what? They’re going to play now.
16:56 – Grant Jerrett?
17:29 – McDonald’s AA bragging.
17:49 – Smaller Cats: what’s that like and more Elliott Pitts, East Bay love.
19:04 – Another weird noise…
19:25 – Was the panic button tickled? An eventual PSA from WANE to not read the comments. Plus, Spencer with a phenomenal pop-culture analogy.
20:14 – The first mention of an actual game in the post-Ashley era. Adam wishes the Ducks good luck
22:36 – A STAT!
24:19 – ANOTHER AWESOME STAT!
24:47 – Spencer forgets his last point then goes on again about Pitts
25:26 – Public Service Announcement
25:29 – THE SPENCER B SMITH PEP TALK TO WILDCAT NATION!
The following was passed to me late last week. It’s a photo of a letter to the editor of the Arizona Daily Star. The opinion of one, perhaps more, but here it is:
I respect opinions. I sincerely do. I want to hear yours so feel free to comment on the matter. I don’t completely intend for my response to be snarky though it became such. Maybe I’m a blinded homer. Maybe I just understand good business. I’m not picking fights here I just don’t see… whatever, here’s my opinion on the matter:
Dear Freed the Snowbird,
I appreciate you sharing your opinion on the presence of Olson in and around Tucson. You’re correct in recognizing that he brought Arizona to national recognition. That actually includes the 1997 National Title. You probably know this considering your cavalier citation of his marital history. Good for you. How quickly we forget his beloved late-wife, Bobbi. You know, the one the floor is named after. But you probably know all of this. I’m really sorry to hear that you’re tired of him.
And wouldn’t it be great to say hello to Sean? Fantastic young coach. You only have that chance because of Lute Olson. Sean Miller would be the first to tell you that. You’ve been here seven years so you’re probably familiar with Miller’s effusive speak on Olson and the history of the program he inherited. Speaking of your seven years, that’s all the time you’ve spent here. You are a self-proclaimed snowbird. You are, by definition, a fair-weather fan. So all of this makes a lot more sense. I hope you’re enjoying your winters here. I imagine you won’t soon tire of 79 degree Decembers.
And deification? Please, we can address this two-fold: 1) Arizona Basketball is a $15M+ business and it’s target audience looks a lot like Olson. Peak at the lower bowl of McKale. 2) Having a 79-year old man do the robot seems far from godlike and looks a lot more like a Credit Union having some fun…WITH THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE FACE IN TUCSON!
There’s a reason photos of leaders past line the walls of everything from the White House to the Rotary Club: We can’t get to where we’re going unless we know where we came from. I respect your opinion, Freed, but there’s a correlation between Olson’s presence and that tiny little number you see next to “Arizona” everywhere.
If that’s too much for you to handle, I hear there’s some fair-weather in Tampa, right next to Dickie V at the Hooters.
That was a fun non-conference slate.
I had considered writing a review of it as the timing seems impeccable. We could walk our way through all those games played against everyone not under Larry’s leadership. It would afford us an opportunity to revisit Askia’s big shot, Washington’s ineptitude, the Wright-Loveridge show, Stanford’s roller coaster, numero uno, Dana Altman and Joseph Young, Jahii Carson, trips to Michigan, and the interesting fact that Oregon State has played games in Maryland, Chicago, and Honolulu otherwise known as places Barack Obama has lived.
But we kinda just covered that so… If there’s anything else you want to cover, just @pachoopsab me.
That said, and this week excluded, it really was an exciting non-conference slate. The conference seems to be as good and deep as it’s been in forever. There have been good games up and down and all across the country. And as I was conjuring what to write during this slow week when no one is playing anyone of intrigue and I’m in Mexico for the twenty-third consecutive family New Years, I was reminded of a conversation about the success (or otherwise) of the new rules. Yes, I’m going to fill your holiday breaks with a discussion of officiating. Well only sort of.
Because just a few weeks ago the NCAA dropped their first bit of data on how their rule changes have affected the game. For a refresher on what they changed up, read this. And for the NCAA’s analysis, read this or allow me to synopsize:
- Basketball is better because of us
That’s about what the NCAA had to say about that. Like any good corporation they’ve pat themselves on the back for their job well done. I don’t mean that facetiously but if you’re going to tell everyone you’re doing X, Y, and Z to make A, B, and C better, your release on the matter will support that end-goal. You’re also going to tell the story that it’s working. As you may have noticed, the NCAA opens with:
Behold the new world of college basketball…
Well alrighty then, Cristobolo Columbus. Next they’re going to tell us they invented the Internet. Alas, picking on the NCAA is a touch passé. Really all the NCAA has done is push data at us to suggest the game has opened up. They are not wrong. Here’s what they’ve said:
- PPG: 67.5 –> 73.81
- FG%: 43.30 –> 44.71
- TOpg: 13.30 –> 12.75
- 2 more fouls per game, 5 more FTs, 3 more made FT
They warned us from the get-go that there would be more whistles and now they’re satisfied with this analysis and are “encouraged” by the direction they’ve sent the game. Nice.
But you know there are more smart guys out there studying this. I’m just absorbing it but read Kevin Pauga’s KPI Trend Analysis. He brings the analysis to a per possession basis and finds similar results. And, of course, more. The key takeaways from his thoughts are that possessions per game have increased, a by-product of more fouls and thus shorter possessions (17.99 à 17.20) as well as fewer turnovers. With steals and turnovers down, the conclusion is that they’ve now become fouls. The end result of this is an increase in scoring which is a conclusion in its own right. The question, however, becomes whether or not that indeed creates a more entertaining game?
Or is that even the question at all?
As you read through many of these analyses, “improvement” and “entertainment” get thrown around quite a bit. But how much can you quantify entertainment? The assertion has been that the NCAA has positively affected the game in such a way that it is more entertaining to us.
But is that right? Are these the elements that we find most intriguing? I suppose what I’m most directly getting at is I’m not sure the score of the game is what I find most appealing. I grew up watching Lute Olson teams beat ASU 127-99 and that was just as fun as last season’s 73-58 win. What’s more, I grew to appreciate what Tony Bennett did at Washington State. He began a paradigm shift in a conference of run-n-fun. He made a Goliath of Pullman’s David. The average Tony Bennett team was playing with just under 60 possessions per game. Olson was closer to a thousand. What Bennett achieved was wizardry and he still managed to do it in a conference long perceived as soft. The forty-five-feet-from-the-basket touch foul is nothing new to Pac-10 fans.
Meanwhile, as Bennett and Howland were constructing a philosophical shift in Pac-12 basketball, Lorenzo Romar was experiencing his most successful three years of basketball with about 72 possessions per contest. The Dawgs were good and fun. And different than the Cougs and Bruins.
I’m not criticizing the NCAA’s work. They recognized an opportunity to improve their product and they acted accordingly. I think their analysis is somewhat limited to suggest that things are better essentially because they made it so. I’m particularly drawn to the glaring omission of 2012-13 game duration data. This season’s games are clocking in at 1 hour and 54 minutes. With no context, I have nary a clue as to what that means. Is that long or short? The same? This is important to me because I’m a busy guy. For example, baseball has lost its sparkle. I’m no longer 16-year-old Adam absorbing 4-hour marathon games of roided out homeruns and 98mph sliders. 29-year-old Adam rarely takes four hours to watch that diminished and poorly marketed product*.
*unless it is October in which case I most certainly will make the time
Consequently, I don’t want to watch guys shoot free throws for two-and-a-half hours. I’m all for opening up the game and I’ll gladly watch Jordan Adams get buckets; but if things trend towards November’s Seton Hall-Niagra tilt, in which 102 FTs were taken, count me bored.
The point here is that entertainment is subjective. We’ve been presented the right measures but – with a Pac-12 focus – the players are just better. Sometimes it’s just that simple. Jorge Gutierrez, or the equivalent, will not be the conference POY. Or even First-Team All-Ten-Man-Conference Team. Come March, that thing is going to resemble a draft board. The NCAA is making strides – they’ve told us as much – but I’d also like to give credit to the ones playing the games.
And now we’ve arrived at the really fun part. The section of the season where it doesn’t matter whether the final score is 99-92 with gazillion FTs taken or 14-8 with eight concussions. It’s storyline time and that’s the real entertainment. Because you shouldn’t fool yourself: You love drama.
Do you realize Andy Enfield now must out-tempo Steve Alford? As in he has to do it on a basketball court and not with his mouth? That Johnny Dawkins is coaching for his career the same way Ken Bone, Craig Robinson and maybe even Lorenzo Romar are? That Spencer Dinwiddie is going to prove – or otherwise – that he and his Buffs are the cream rising to the top?
That’s entertainment to me. When Utah knocks someone off or a court is rushed by giddy students. That’s a good game. Those slack jawed moments of howdidthathappen; holy shit, if you will.
It was a fun non-conference slate. And it’s about to get better.
On March 13, 2003, Sean Miller was an assistant coach for the Xavier Musketeers. They were a good team, finishing 26-6 and reaching the second round as a three seed. Soon thereafter Miller became the lead man at Xavier and would continue that success. He’d win 120 games as the head coach there, attend four NCAA tournaments, one sweet sixteen, one elite eight, and win two conference championships. On the week of December 5, 2006, a Miller-coached team cracked their first AP Top-25. His Musketeers were ranked 24th that week. And amongst all of his success, the highest ranking he would achieve at Xavier was seventh.
This morning Sean Miller woke up. He wore his cardinal and navy to work, the colors of a Wildcat and the colors of Lute Olson’s basketball program. It’s a program Miller has made clear is not his own. It’s a brand he’s propagating. He’s also made it clear that he is building his own legacy; an integral fact to the success of any endeavor.
So when Monday’s polls dropped and the first name cited was “Arizona,” it wasn’t news to the cardinal and navy. March 13, 2003 was the last time Arizona wore the wee number. This school has worn that number six times prior and once after the final buzzer. Number one is not new to Arizona. Read a lovely history of the lonely number and Arizona here.
But it’s new to this regime. It’s new to a generation of Wildcats – this player’s program – that has bellied up to the bar and bought extinction a drink only to sober up just soon enough to realize the mistake. This number may be impermanent but it’s here, being worn by your Arizona Wildcats, and it’s Sean Miller’s first time as top dog.
So let’s watch him.
See him in his new skin as the hunted. As I said after his team defeated Duke, this is a different monster he has created. The seven to eight guys he’s running out there each night are the seven to eight guys he’s dreamt of since taking this job. It’s the seven to eight guys that are generating hype and hyperbole like ‘Is this the greatest Arizona team ever?’ And maybe it is? I can’t tell you definitely yes or no and neither can you.
But I can tell you that on Saturday afternoon, with what seemed like #1 all but locked up, the Wildcats struggled. For the first time this season they saw their two best players struggle. Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson – the rocks of this lineup – would combine to go 6-25 on the whitened afternoon. Arizona yielded 42 points on 64% shooting in the first half to a UNLV team that arrived in Tucson with nothing to lose. Whatever they had was lost to Dixie State and so Roscoe Smith – who’d already stolen Arizona cookies in 2011 as a member of the UConn Huskies – had no qualms in running his mouth at the favorites, “They should be intimidated by us.” He’d finish with 10 points and 6 rebounds. He previously was averaging 13 and 16.
But in their first half as the presumed best, Arizona looked their worst. The stadium was monochromatic for reasons unknown (tired of that gimmick) and the roster, coaches, and stadium were stewing on three days of hype. How was Miller, at the helm of a ship navigating new waters, going to handle all of this?
What would his team do next?
Because to date, he’s been teaching what he’s always taught: how to be a very good basketball team. For four seasons now in the desert we’ve enjoyed just that and been quite pleased with Miller’s teams, his conduct, and his program. He did the same at Xavier. He’s coached many good teams in many different jerseys and earned himself the distinction of being a very good basketball coach. He coaches good teams.
Now he has the best team. More realistically than any good team of his before this, he has a team vying for hats and t-shirts. Unchartered territory.
Have you ever heard of coaches running that drill where their team practices cutting down the nets? They’ll set up ladders, grab the office scissors, and player-by-player hike up there to cut down the nets. Champs. Practice like you play and if you practice like the last man standing, well the thought is pretty soon you will be.
So for now, Arizona and their coach will practice being the best team in the country. It’s a distinction they’d indubitably prefer to wear in April but for now it works. You’re damn right it works. Because you can’t get to where you want to be unless you know what it looks like.
“Being No. 1 is not our end goal but I think when you’re playing with that thought in mind, practices matter, how you play matters … everything we do takes on even more added importance because you’re trying for, in a sense, rarified air to be the No. 1 team in the nation,” said Miller.
But here’s the thing: this group doesn’t know what it looks like. Anything approaching the top spot is news and so with Arizona struggling, yielding all that they did in Saturday’s first twenty minutes, rankings were the least of anyone’s concerns. And then something happened: defense. This team defended its way to victory, allowing just sixteen second-half points; one basket in the final six-minutes. For the game they outrebounded UNLV, 41-29, and collected 44 points in the paint when nothing would fall from distance. The Wildcats collected themselves and went with their strengths. They won the game.
So maybe this is what it looks like? How it feels and what it might be like?
Today, Sean Miller and his Arizona Wildcats are the best team in America.
What will his team do next?
Sean Miller sat at a table next to Jim Livengood, his wife, and his three children. Set up in the middle of the McKale floor, the former AD spoke effusively about his newest hire before turning the mic over to the native Pennsylvanian. Miller thanked Coach Olson before saying anything to anyone about anything else. He too would speak effusively about the program he was inheriting and the legacy he would work to carry on. Hours earlier, at a similar press conference with a less celebratory mood, Miller was asked about his decision to become the next head coach at the University of Arizona, “I would never leave Xavier unless it was a place that I really felt you could win a national championship.” He’d go on to lead his first Wildcat team to a 16-15 record. The first Arizona team since 1984 not invited to the NCAA tournament. Xavier would attend their third consecutive sweet sixteen. That was 2009 and this is 2013. Four years removed from that press table on the McKale floor, Sean Miller will unveil his best team yet. His best chance yet to affirm that April 7th decision.
Why I love them: Arizona is going to be so outrageously good. It’s wild that Gordon gets the majority of eyeballs (yet understandable) and if you’re writing a 1000 word column on the Cats, he’s taking up 40% of it. Respect. But in a singular blurb entitled “Why I love my favorite team of all-time on my own blog so you’re going to have to deal with all of my biases and Kool Aid drinking because it’s mine all mine” I’ll gladly talk about the other kids:
- Brandon Ashley was AG before AG.
- TJ McConnell was a top five theft before bailing on small ball for the big boys. A defense and pass first PG in a SM system? Yes please. Did you know a former coach said TJ was the best player on Arizona’s practice floor last year? Do you know who that former coach was? Luther Olson.
- Nick Johnson made exponential improvements from FR to SO season. That’s a somewhat expected improvement; a standard time to leap ahead. But the greatest leap he made was fully understanding and embracing his role as a lock down defender. You see what he did down the stretch? Dinwiddie, LD2, Ian Clark, Wesley Saunders, Craft? Zipperhead nada. Lock down. And now he’s got a partner in crime (see above) (and below)
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson compares more favorably to Andre Iguodala than AG compares to Blake Griffin. 6’7″ with a 7’1″ wingspan, when translated into hoop, means: NIET. As in NIET anyone is getting by him. StealsOnblocksOndeflections.
Quick break here because I’m exhausted and can’t even wrap my mind around who to write about next. I literally have an elevated heart rate right now because I got anxious I’d forget to mention someone.
- Kaleb Tarczewski is a seven footer who dropped 6/6 a season ago. Kinda meh, ho hum, but if you were privy to the report my boy James whipped up a year ago regarding top-50 big men recruits, it’s about par for the course. You know where the majority of those top-50 big men who average about 6/6 in their freshman campaign wind up? Lotteries.
- Once there was this frail point guard I interviewed. He went on to surprise people as a freshmen and disappoint them in the subsequent two years. But he’s a senior now. He’s seen this and he’s experience that (and by that I mean an elite eight, ever been?). He’s Jordin Mayes and he’s going to surprise you because iced veins were meant for March.
And that’ll cover it for now. I didn’t get to the defensive collective of this group or the possibility of instant offense from a guy like Gabe York. Zach Peters is like a Wear twin who won’t ever have to be featured (that’s what the Wears were supposed to be). Yet the Wildcats aren’t even allowing Peters to play. Just try and come at me with the shooting stuff.
Oh, and there’s that Miller guy.
Why I hate them: I don’t. Can’t. Won’t ever. Bear down.
Stat you need to know:
Percentage from three point distance opponents shot against the Wildcats last season, the second highest such percentage a Sean Miller team has ever yielded. Aside from his first ever season, no other SM team allowed opponents to shoot better than 33%. His worst ever ranking (the bookends aside) was 85th. My point here is that last year appears to be a statistical anomaly in which his defense was lead by not-TJ McConnell. Last season’s eight losses saw AZ opponents shoot 46% from distance. In my book, How to Lose Basketball Games, chapter three is titled “Allow Your Opponent to Shoot >40% from 3FG: And other ways to lose from beyond the arc.”
There are no more excuses.
With TJ McConnell running the show, an improved and polished front court at his disposal, and Aaron Gordon doing basketball things that only Aaron Gordon can do, justifications will not manage if Arizona does not reach the Promised Land. The talent is too strong and the road to Jerry World is too forthright.
Now that’s not to say the task won’t be daunting. The Wildcats have one of the more challenging out-of-conference schedules in the country – a potential Madison Square Garden match-up with Duke overshadows a trip to Ann Arbor to play the national runner-ups.
And despite being the runaway pick to win the conference, the Pac-12 won’t be a cakewalk as Oregon, UCLA, Cal, and even The School Up North could provide legitimate challenges.
But come March, when Sean Miller’s teams traditionally peak, this one should peak a little bit higher. By then, the chemistry between McConnell and his teammates should be uniquely strong and Arizona will have an inherent advantage against most opponents because its front-court size and talent.
Furthermore, if the Wildcats earn a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, their path to the Final Four will presumably never stray from the comforts of Southern California and its rich base of UofA alums.
It’s year five of the Sean Miller Era and patience is becoming less of a virtue and more of a commodity It’s time for expectations to become reality.
“They’ve got about 75 pros on their team.” – Lorenzo Romar on why Arizona is the Pac-12 favorite
“But who in their right mind would think that Gordon will bring the ball up against Duke in the Final Four, cross over Jabari Parker, spin off of Rodney Hood, and dunk so hard on Rasheed Sulaimon that Sulaimon gets a concussion? (Arizona fans just scanned the room for something to put on their laps to hide their collective erection.)” – Mark Titus
Outlook: I have sunglasses on right now and it’s not the hangover. No the future is so bright I’m wearing shades and it’s taking all I’ve got to not talk about hotels and things to do in Dallas. What’s it like there in early April? Alas, there’s entire slate of basketball to be played and games to be won. None of this is going to be easy for the Wildcats but they’ve positioned themselves to make it look so. Their schedule is great – I’m attending as much of it as I can – and everything I mentioned above. Detractors, critics, and realists will mention Arizona’s unproven outside shooting. They have a point. But the greater point on that front is that if Arizona is grossly reliant on its shooting they’ve got bigger problems. If the offense isn’t running through someone named Aaron, Kaleb, or Brandon: issues. Furthermore, Arizona is going to get its buckets in transition. Defense will be their signature. I imagine a lot of run stopping timeouts from opposing benches (20-4 run, etc.).
We’re one week away.
He touched the ball.
Go Cats and here’s to basketball games in football stadiums.
That’s to say, the Wildcats could be dancing or whatever you call an NIT appearance. However you frame it, there’s still a brief amount of season remaining, the slightest bit of Alex Jacobson’s Arizona career to unfold.
The big boy out of Mater Dei, aptly referred to as “Tree,” hasn’t played much at Arizona. He’s battled back injuries and some talent hurdles but by all accounts he’s been nothing short of a great kid, a diligent worker, and dedicated to the program.
He’ll get his degree, five seasons of college basketball, a trip to the elite eight and sweet sixteen, and probably some free drinks somewhere along the way. So what of this seven-footer who once shot 83% from the field and 57% from the line in a season? Who scored fifty career points, grabbed sixty career rebounds, and dished six career assists?
Jacobson is the last recruit of Lute Olson’s to wear an Arizona jersey.
Before the medical leave or KO or Pennell or Sean, Jacobson enrolled at the University of Arizona; a promising center joining the 2007 class of Jerryd Bayless, Jamelle Horne, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Zane Johnson. It was the eighth rated class in the nation that year. Tree was joining a preseason top-20 team with sights on big things.
Then the aforementioned (upon aforementioned, upon aforementioned) happened. And there’s absolutely no need to relive that past; it’s been addressed ad nausea how many times it’s been addressed ad nausea.
It happened and here we are, watching the last of the great Lute Olson’s recruits complete his time in the program.
A program Olson built from a four-win team in 1983 to a 25-consecutive NCAA tournament bound team; to a thirteen sweet sixteen appearance team; to a twelve-time conference champion team; to an eight time Elite Eight appearance team; to a four-time Final Four attendee team; to the 1997 National Championship team.
Olson built a program.
And so when Alex “Tree” Jacobson removes the cardinal and navy for the last time; when a new number 50 is hitting the weights and the track and the Richard Jefferson Gym; whenever that happens, a part of Arizona Basketball history will become complete.
Maybe it’s an era, tenure or the legend of it all. Whatever you want to call it, a piece of Wildcat-lore will become complete, a fond memory building upon countless others, meant to be recounted over-and-over-and-over again as part of a glorious past that’s delivered us to this point today.
No matter where Jacobson suits up for the final time as a Wildcat, remember why he ever suited up in the first place. And how you ever became an Arizona fan.
Olson’s last recruit may be finishing, but Olson’s built something far bigger than a 2007 recruiting class.
He built Arizona.
This post can also be found at pointguardu.com.
This is also posted at pointguardu.com, a great source of Wildcat hoops.
If you watched Kyle Fogg’s effort against the Washington Huskies in Tucson back on January 28, you saw him trying.
The senior tried so hard. He knew what a win meant and he wanted to win. I maintain it was the single greatest example of trying to do too much I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. He made two of his four shots, all of which were attempted in the first half, grabbed no rebounds, and coughed the ball up five times.
And if you could stand to watch him during the post game press conference, dejected doesn’t even begin to describe how the senior looked. Slumped in his shoulders, mumbled in his responses, blank in his gaze, he looked defeated. As if the toll of four transitional and trying years, an underwhelming 5-4 start, and the weight of Tucson’s collective basketball focus had finally become too much.
It was not.
Since sitting in that small room after the Washington game, Fogg has been the best player in the Pacific-12 Conference. He’s twice won the conference’s Player of the Week award and take a peak at these numbers: 16.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg.
But here’s the biggest number: seven. The Wildcats are 7-1 since that potentially finishing loss at home and Fogg has been the centerpiece of that. Ensuring that Arizona will not go quietly into the 2012 off-season. That Fogg will not be the first Arizona senior in more than twenty years to play in just two NCAA tournaments.
You realize before he picked this team up on his back they were all but dead? A game over five hundred in arguably the worst major conference ever with two home losses and a pending road trip to the Bay Area? All but dead indeed and he didn’t let that happen, winning the first of his two POW awards during the Bay sweep.
This perfect little run very well could have Fogg and his Wildcats dancing but it’s really just icing on the cake for the least suspecting four-year starter in recent Arizona Basketball history.
When it’s all said and done, Fogg will have started at least the sixth most games in Arizona basketball history. Up there with the likes of Frye, Stoudamire, and Cook. Those aren’t names you’ll soon forget. And you shouldn’t soon forget Kyle Fogg, either.
He never wowed us with skill, often looking the part of a project when this program needed him to be a star. Fogg was lightly recruited to say it nicely and didn’t receive a scholarship offer until the Arizona program was at rock bottom.
The unranked, unoffered, unassuming kid from Brea will now likely be a First Team All-Conference player. One of the hardest, most self-made players to wear an Arizona jersey. Just like in that Washington game, he’s tried.
So take yourself back into that room with Fogg. Down – oh so down – but clearly he wasn’t out. Because there were at least nine more games to start. To be remembered as the great Wildcat he is.
He won’t stop trying.
Brandon Roy’s knees are tragically unable to to hold the immense talent that he is and therefore, at the ripe age of 27, he’s retiring from the game he excels at.
He was the 2005-06 Pac-10 Player of the Year, an All-American, the sixth pick in the NBA draft, an NBA All-Star, and one my all-time favorite basketball players. He was smooth and effortless, played with guts and to win.
I’ll always remember Roy’s New Year’s eve, 2005. I was on my family’s annual trip to Mexico, watching the Wildcats take on Roy’s Huskies in Seattle.
The marquee match-up was Hasaan Adams vs. Roy, two dynamic seniors leading teams that would likely finish 1-2 in this year’s Pac. Roy’s Huskies were 11-0 and sitting at #7 in the country. Adams’ Wildcats were 8-2 and had just fallen out of the rankings.
As one might expect, the Huskies jumped out to a big lead and headed to the lockers up 13. Below the border, we were worried: the Cats were getting blown out, the Huskies were clicking on all cylinders, and they’d served us blended Pina Coladas so our immediate bowel health was in a jeopardy.
But when the second half began and the Wildcats got to playing better basketball and we got to table slapping and screaming at a tube television broadcasting a pirated satellite feed 1865 miles from the game, things really got going.
You see, Hasaan Adams wasn’t a great basketball player. He was a great role player on a very good Salim Stoudamire/Channing Frey team in 2004-05 but did not have the skill set to be the lead.
But Adams would set career high with 32 points that night. Roy would set a career high with 35 points and like heavy weights, the two exchanged blows down the stretch – Roy forcing both overtimes well beyond the one minute mark, Adams scoring eight of his career high in bonus ball.
Brandon Roy elevated everyone’s game.
Graceful and powerful, level and easy, it was Roy that elevated Adams that night. A 96-95 overtime thriller can often be a spring board – regardless of what side of the score you fall on. Leadership recognizes opportunity. From that game on, the Wildcats would meekly go 12-10. From that game on, the Huskies would go 16-6, losing in the Sweet Sixteen to UConn in overtime, 96-92, and ending Roy’s college career.
Brandon Roy was a leader.
It was his excellent play, his class and charisma, his leadership that turned the Jailblazers into a respectable, feared, and winning NBA franchise once again. There are few players that can turn around an entire franchise, let alone a beleaguered and beaten one. BRoy did just that.
Down south we knew we’d just seen something special. The Wildcats had won and we were happy, content to set off into a great New Year’s celebration, but we were acutely aware of the fact that Brandon Roys don’t come around too often. We were fortunate to get to see him at his best.
Great anythings performing at their highest level is a beautiful thing to witness. It is to be cherished and celebrated. For that, Brandon Roy’s early retirement is a basketball tragedy. A loss for all basketball fans, from Huskies to Blazers, Wildcats to Lakers.
We’ll miss a phenomenal talent.