The glass has to be half full. It must with nary a game yet played. For such, over the next few days, I’ll be posting why each of the conference’s twelve teams have reasons to be optimistic.
Big People – One season ago, the Arizona frontcourt was manned by a 6’7” and 6’6” tandem. Today the Wildcats’ lane will be occupied by nearly fourteen feet of human. A difference maker indeed and Sean Miller had this to say about it:
Grad School – It’s not unprecedented but Mark Lyons’ transfer to Tucson from Xavier to begin graduate work and play basketball could wind up being cited as one of the most impactful transfers, ever. Hyperbole to be sure and the horse is well ahead of the carriage; but this smells a lot like Russell Wilson to Wisconsin for a Rose Bowl, the basketball version.
Time – Kevin Parrom had a hellacious 2011-12 that he’s asked to not be asked about. We all know the story by now so now let’s celebrate that we’ll get to see a tough, fun, and now healthy basketball player thrive as a senior.
Padded Chairs – Nearly everyone sitting on one was a four-star recruit or better and is going to make these Wildcats the deepest team in the conference if not the country.
1988 – This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Arizona’s first Final Four and one of the greatest teams in school history. That ’88 squad went on to win a gaggle of NBA Championships and included Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Kenny Lofton, Jud Bucheler, Tom Tolbert, and others.
Zeus – Not the Greek God but if Kaleb Tarczewski erupts in season one, he may be considered one in Tucson. Seven-footers are good old fashioned difference makers. A monster season will have Zeus in the lottery and the ‘Cats playing deep into the Madness.
Maturity – There may be young pieces, but this is a mature group lead by senior statesman, Solomon Hill. At Pac-12 Media Day Hill let everyone know how he’s embraced his role as leader, teaching the mature-beyond-their-years underclassmen of sacrifice and passing on the parties that are always going to be there. A subtle jab at the departed Josiah Turner? Whatever it is, the Wildcats are focused on winning.
The biggest kids usually end up on a block and the smaller kids wind up being developed into point guards and off guards. A good portion of your basketball career is defined by what your momma gave you.
But what if mom gave you the size of a big and the moves of a guard? What if you were, I dunno, the complete package?
That’s what I was looking for when I picked my forwards. Allow me to tell you about it.
Elliott, O’Bannon, Mills, Abdur-Rahim
Sean Elliot, Arizona, 1985-89
Home: Tucson, Arizona. Cholla HS
Stats: 19ppg, 6rpg, 3apg
Best Year: 22ppg, 7rpg, 4apg
Brag Sheet: 1988 and 1989 Pac-10 POY, 1989 Wooden Award Winner, 3rd pick in 1989 NBA Draft
You always hear about how keeping local talent is imperative to a program’s success and it is. Never has it meant more to a program than Sean Elliott staying in Tucson to play for Lute Olson. The greatest prep player ever out of Tucson is arguably the greatest player ever to come out of the UofA. Oh, and he’s also the first major athlete to ever return to action following a kidney transplant. He literally could do it all: score, defend, board, and outlast his own career trajectory. Gamer.
Ed O’Bannon, UCLA, 1991-95
Home: Los Angeles, California. Artesia HS
Stats: 16ppg, 7rpg, 2apg
Best Year: 20ppg, 8rpg, 3apg
Brag Sheet: 1995 Pac-10 POY, 1995 Wooden Award Winner, 1995 NCAA Champion, 9th pick in the 1995 NBA Draft
When you play for the most storied program in college basketball history where there are ten championship banners hanging from the rafters of your home gym and when it’s been twenty years since the last banner was hung you need a hero. Enter: Ed O’Bannon. But the long forward not only took on the ghosts of Bruins past in earning his national title, he’s also come to battle the NCAA. He filed a lawsuit claiming the governing body everyone loves to pick apart has been wrongfully profiting off the images of the players they “educate” even beyond their graduation into non-amateur status. Dude’s got a point. Trial is pending.
Chris Mills, Arizona, Arizona, 1990-93
Home: Los Angeles, California. Fairfax HS
Stats: 17ppg, 8rpg, 2apg
Best Year: 20ppg, 8rpg, 2apg
Brag Sheet: 1993 Pac-10 POY, 22nd Pick in the 1993 NBA Draft
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, California, 1995-96
Home: Murrietta, Georgia. Joseph Walker HS
Stats: 21ppg, 8rpg, 1apg
Best Year: only played one
Brag Sheet: 1996 Pac-10 POY, 3rd Pick in the 1996 NBA Draft
So here you have the only one and done on Team PacHoops and subsequently the first ever freshman POY in conference history. And did you know he also managed to maintain a 3.5 GPA at Cal? I coulda told you he was smart for moving from Georgia to the Bay Area but to put up those kinda number in the classroom just seals the deal. And now, in his current role as the Sacramento Kings assistant GM, I choose to believe he’s always the dissenting opinion on all player personnel decisions. My man.