Final End: Lute Olson’s last recruits have survived and continue to thriveby Scott Terrell on Feb. 27, 2012, under Sports
They are the last remaining ties to Lute Olson, the final players signed before the legendary University of Arizona basketball coach retired.
Seniors Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Alex Jacobson are the last remaining Cats of Chaos. They have witnessed controversy and turmoil. They lived through the Wildcat program teetering on the brink of collapse only to come roaring back under Sean Miller.
With wins in their final two home games Lute’s last players are making a run at one final NCAA tournament berth.
The mere fact that they became Arizona players was seen as a sign the program was eroding. In 2007 UCLA was signing the top center in the country while Jacobson wasn’t even in the discussion. In an era of one-and-done he redshirted and ended up watching his head coach take a leave of absence.
A year later Fogg and Lavender played the same position and neither ranked as highly as the shooting guard recruits from seven other Pac-10 schools. Fogg needed a former Sun Devil player to convince a former Sun Devil broadcaster to help him become a Wildcat. He joined Lavender and Jacobson in watching Olson depart for the second and final time.
If Sean Miller hadn’t come in and saved the empire they would have been viewed as the soldiers on duty while Rome burned. Instead they are rightly being honored as players who persevered and carried the torch as it passed from the era of a Hall of Famer to an era of rebirth and great promise.
They won the final Pac-10 championship. They made March Madness memories in trouncing the defending champions in the Sweet Sixteen. Their place in Arizona basketball history was secure before this season began.
It looked like the seniors were going to quietly witness another transition, waiting for Derrick Williams to be replaced by the nation’s number one recruiting class. The expectations were low and few UA fans would’ve complained about missing the tournament.
These seniors have changed the narrative one more time.
Fogg has become the team’s leading scorer and the 6-3 version of Charles Barkley on the glass. Lavender has become the league’s best 3-point shooter since, well, Derrick Williams.
The result has been wins in seven of Arizona’s last eight games and the Cats have gone from NIT locks to smack dab in the middle of the NCAA tournament conversation.
The work certainly isn’t done. The UA has gotten hot while other bubble teams have suffered bad losses but one final pitfall remains. Beating ASU and its 236 RPI on Sunday is a must. Winning the opening game in the Pac-12 tournament is highly recommended.
Taking things for granted isn’t an option. But with seniors like this, that will not be a problem.
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