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Former Santa Rita star happy to lead UA cheers

Citizen Staff Writer



He’s played all of nine minutes this season for Arizona, but D.J. Shumpert is in basketball heaven.

That’s in part because Sweet 16 dreams come true.

“All this is amazing,” said Shumpert, a freshman and former Santa Rita High star. “Even though I’m not playing . . . it’s amazing being on the bench and supporting the guys and just waiting my turn, just amazing.”

Shumpert, a 6-foot-6 forward, has played in three games this season after obtaining a scholarship at the last minute in August. He’s considered a walk-on with a scholarship. He played in UA’s first two blowout wins against Mississippi Valley State and Loyola Marymount and against Oregon in early January. His less-than-modest totals: one assist, two turnovers.

Since the Oregon game on Jan. 8, he’s been a cheerleader on the bench. He’s more than OK with it, although he was suspended a month ago for one game for “failing to meet team obligations.”

“This is everything I’ve dreamed of,” he said. “I’m just glad I have this experience for the future, in case we do go back.”

First, Arizona will move on this week to face No. 1 seed Louisville in Indianapolis, where Arizona won its national title in 1997. Shumpert was 6 years old when UA made that glorious run.

Twelve years later, he’s part of the Sweet 16 as one of seven Tucsonans to be a Wildcat in the past 25 years.

“Nobody expected us to be here,” he said. “We had all the troubles and then Lute (Olson is gone). We have never given up.”

And he has never given up on himself. In going against Arizona’s big men each day, Shumpert’s game improved immeasurably, he said. He’s also gained 30 pounds.

“Everything in my game has gotten better,” he said.


Seven Tucsonans played for the UA men’s basketball team in the Lute Olson era:

Player, high school Seasons

Harvey Thompson, Cholla 1982-84

David Haskin, Sahuaro 1983-86

Sean Elliott, Cholla 1986-89

Deron Johnson, Sunnyside 1991-92

John Ash, Salpointe 1997-01

Matt Brase, Cat. Foothills 2004-05

Darnell Shumpert, Santa Rita 2009-

• Greg Cook (Sunnyside) and John Vlahogeorge (Tucson High) played in coach Fred Snowden’s last season (1982).

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