I rise to make a motion that the laundry hanging from the rafters at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus be increased by one white jersey bearing the number “31.”
Jason Terry deserves a presidential pardon.
The Dallas Mavericks star is one of the most popular UA players of all time, a major contributor to the school’s 1997 NCAA basketball championship and a 1999 All-American.
“JT” loves the school and has been generous with his time and support, returning for various functions on behalf of the basketball program. He will be here with former teammates when the national championship squad is recognized on its 10th anniversary Saturday at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.
The jersey Terry wore to bed along with his basketball trunks (he was a strange kid) the night before Arizona defeated Kentucky in the ’97 championship game at Indianapolis would have been hoisted to the roof at McKale long ago but for the matter of his taking money from agents during his junior and senior years, 1998 and 1999.
He wasn’t alone. UCLA and Texas Tech players were caught in the same trap by unscrupulous agents. The incident is the reason Arizona practices are now closed.
The Wildcats had to forfeit their only game in the 1999 NCAA basketball tournament, which wasn’t all that meaningful inasmuch as they lost to Oklahoma, 61-60.
The school also had to repay the NCAA for its cut of postseason play in ’98 and ’99.
JT accepted something like $11,000. He was ineligible for his entire senior season – or would have been, if anyone had known about the money. The school didn’t, obviously, and a review board of the Pacific-10 Conference decided there was no need to forfeit the 1998-99 schedule.
Terry was a fabulous college basketball player and is today one of the stars of the NBA. He’s quick as a panther, has a great shooting touch and plays extremely well on defense. But his biggest contribution has always been the fact he’s the consummate team player.
He proved it in that championship season.
Miles Simon, now a Wildcat assistant coach, was dealing with academic problems – in street clothes – the first semester and missed 11 games. With Terry filling in, the Cats put up a 9-2 record.
But when Simon returned, and because a team can only start five players at a time, somebody had to sit down. Terry stepped forward and volunteered. He was the best No. 6 man in the country, and was so recognized.
Olson has spoken often about JT’s attitude and unselfishness. The UA fans loved him. Especially when he’d celebrate victories with them by jumping up on the scorer’s table at the final horn.
Before the game against highly favored Kansas in the NCAA regionals at Birmingham, Ala., in ’97, Terry decided to wear his uniform to bed. The Wildcats won and he wore the same pajamas before every game the rest of that tournament. Arizona beat three No. 1 seeds – Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky – to win the national championship. No school has ever done that, before or since.
Terry is as crazy about the Cats today as he was when he played here.
UA president Robert Shelton should issue an presidential pardon to JT and have that “31″ jersey lifted to the rafters in McKale to join the No. 25 of Steve Kerr, No. 32 of Sean Elliott, No. 10 of Mike Bibby, No. 22 of Jason Gardner and the No. 00 of the late, wonderful women’s player, Shawntinice Polk.
Richard Nixon pardoned Jimmy Hoffa. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.
U.S. presidents have pardoned counterfeiters, bootleggers, bank robbers and at least one guy convicted of helping bomb a coal mine. Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led an army against the Union, was pardoned.
Shelton or somebody should forgive Jason Terry, and honor him – and the basketball program – by adding his jersey to the ceiling at McKale.
Retired columnist Corky Simpson writes every Saturday for the Citizen.