TucsonCitizen.com Arizona Elite Eight Event: 1993-1994 versus 2004-2005by Javier Morales on Jan. 24, 2012, under Sports
Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category
1993-94 Arizona Wildcats (29-6)
–Beat Missouri 92-72 in the West Regional Final; lost to Arkansas 91-82 in the Final Four. To note: The Wildcats made a school-record 279 three-pointers, which was broken last season by the 2010-11 club, which made 296.
2004-05 Arizona Wildcats (30-7)
–Lost to Illinois 90-89 in the Chicago Regional Final. To note: Arizona guard Salim Stoudamire set school records for three-pointers made (120) and free-throw percentage (91 percent, 122 of 134) that season.
VOTE ON THIS MATCHUP AT WILDABOUTAZCATS.NET!!!
Damon Stoudamire (1992-1995) vs. Mustafa Shakur (2003-2007)
The Stoudamire cousins match up in this one — Damon and Salim — but at different positions. The point guard battle here includes one of the program’s elite in Damon Stoudamire against another in Mustafa Shakur who struggled to reach his potential but was a four-year starter nonetheless.
Among all the feats Damon Stoudamire achieved at Arizona — leading a team to the Final Four, only Wildcat with two 40-point games in his career, etc. — none were arguably more impressive than what he did against Oregon at McKale Center on Feb. 25, 1995.
Stoudamire, a native of Portland, burned his home-state Ducks with a triple-double in a 97-76 victory. What’s so impressive about that? He tallied 32 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists in only 26 minutes. Moreover, the win over the Ducks capped a 16-0 record in his career against Oregon and Oregon State.
Stoudamire, who later was chosen NBA Rookie of the Year and enjoyed a 12-year pro career, received just praise from Arizona coach Lute Olson after the triple-double performance. “Damon’s got spirit; he’s a fighter,” Olson said.
The knock on Shakur by some UA followers was that he did not embody the same win-at-all-costs, steady-as-he-goes characteristics as Stoudamire. Shakur, one of Olson’s more highly touted recruits from Philadelphia, is remembered as the point guard of the UA team that blew a 15-point lead against Illinois with four minutes remaining in the 2005 Chicago Regional Final. The Wildcats led by eight points with 1:15 remaining in regulation. But the top-seeded Illini rallied to force overtime and pulled out a 90-89 victory.
Shakur should be remembered for much more than that. Foremost, among Olson’s array of talented point guards — Damon Stoudamire, Steve Kerr, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry and Jason Gardner among them — Shakur holds the most career assists with 670. Damon Stoudamire finished with 663. Moreover, much like Stoudamire, Shakur proved to be a standup guy who always answered questions by the media, win or lose.
The year after Arizona collapsed against Illinois, the Wildcats traveled to Shakur’s hometown of Philadelphia to play in the NCAA tournament. They routed Wisconsin 94-75 behind Shakur’s 17 points and nine assists. The Wildcats then battled Villanova, which essentially playing a home game in Philly, before losing 82-78 despite 21 points and five assists from Shakur.
“Mustafa has played the way great point guards play,” Olson said after the Wisconsin game. “He ran his team; he backed it out when the advantage wasn’t there; he attacked the rim when he saw the opportunity to attack. And defensively, he’s made unbelievable progress just from last year. And he’s accdepted the role now of being the distributor. This was probaby as well as he’s played.”
Khalid Reeves (1991-1994) vs. Salim Stoudamire (2002-2005)
Wouldn’t this be a captivating one-on-one game when Khalid Reeves and Salim Stoudamire were in their prime?
Reeves, the relentless scorer who always aggressively worked for his shot, against Salim Stoudamire, who rivals Kerr as one of the most confident long-range perimeter shooters in the program’s history.
Reeves and Stoudamire also had a flair for the spectacular. Who can forget when Reeves drove the drove the length of the court in 1992 and scored at the buzzer to beat the Cardinal in Maples Pavilion? During the UA’s Elite Eight season of 2004-2005, Stoudamire converted on three memorable late game-winning baskets.
Stoudamire hit a three-point shot with 2.5 seconds remaining to beat UCLA and made a 14-footer with six-tenths of a second left against Arizona State. In a Sweet 16 game against Oklahoma State that season, his off-balance jumper near the baseline with 2.8 seconds remaining defeated the Cowboys 79-78.
“He’s about perfect when it’s down to that last shot,” Olson told the media before the Elite Eight matchup with Illinois.
Reeves is the only player in UA history to score more than 800 points in a season. He achieved that feat in Arizona’s Final Four season of 1993-94 with 848 points, averaging 24.2 points a game. Reeves and Salim’s cousin, Damon, comprised arguably the best backcourt in Arizona history. Damon averaged 18.3 points that same season.
On the UA’s career scoring chart, Salim Stoudamire ranks fourth with 1,960 points, Reeves is fifth with 1,925 and Damon Stoudamire is sixth at 1,849.
UA forward Chris Mills went so far as to say watching Reeves play was “pretty” after Reeves went 7-for-7 from the field in the first half and finished with a career-high 31 points (at the time) in an 81-70 victory over Oregon State in 1993. Reeves’ career-high was 40 against Michigan at McKale Center in that Final Four season of 1993-94.
“It was kind of pretty watching him shake a guy off and get the basket,” Mills said.
Reggie Geary (1993-1996) vs. Hassan Adams (2003-2006)
This would be a matchup of “Hot Sauce” Hassan Adams — because he could heat up from the field — against Reggie Geary, who had a habit of making opponents hot because he got under their skin with his defense and his choice words on the court.
Adams, one of Olson’s most versatile players who played at off-guard, small forward and power forward in his career, had his signature game at Washington on Dec. 31, 2005. He scored a career-high 32 points, including eight points and consecutive three-pointers in two overtimes, to lead the Wildcats to a 96-95 victory over the seventh-ranked Huskies. The loss snapped Washington’s 32-game home winning streak. Adams stretched his jersey so Washington fans could clearly read “ARIZONA” on his chest after the win.
“Man, this was big,” Adams told reporters afterward. “It was emotion. It wasn’t boasting. That’s my role on my team.
“My team, my coaches put that confidence in me.”
No other Wildcat has displayed more confidence than Geary, who was nicknamed “The Jacket” because of his defensive prowess. Few realize that Geary was quite the distributor as well. He had more assists in a season (231 in 1995-96) than other UA point guards such as Damon Stoudamire, Bibby, Kerr or Terry. Geary ranks only behind Russell Brown (247 assists in 1978-79) in this category.
Olson could count on Geary getting his teammates involved, and also drawing the ire of opponents, taking them off their game.
Olson came to Geary’s defense after the UA’s 96-77 win at Cal in 1994, when former Golden Bears coach Todd Bozeman accused Geary of trash-talking. Bozeman was assessed a technical for voicing his displeasure to the refs. That helped fuel a 22-0 Arizona run after the Cats were down by 14.
“Hey, sometimes Reggie gets under my skin too,” Olson told reporters. “He’s gotten under everybody’s skin, but I tell you, the guy’s a winner.
“I told him, ‘Don’t do anything to hurt your team.’ But I don’t want him backing down from anybody, either.”
Ray Owes (1992-1995) vs. Ivan Radenovic (2004-2007)
Two of the more quieter components to an Elite Eight Arizona team — Ray Owes and Ivan Radenovic — were each valuable in their own special way for their respective teams.
On a lineup that had prolific scoring guards in Reeves and Damon Stoudamire, the verbose Geary and fearless Joseph Blair, Owes welcomed the role as a silent enforcer. He led the 1993-94 team with 8.1 rebounds per game. He also averaged 12.9 points a game. In the 1994 Final Four loss to Arkansas, Owes and Blair combined for 24 points and 26 rebounds.
Olson realized Owes would be a clutch performer in his career when Owes, as a sophomore, made two free throws with 13 seconds remaining to clinch an 82-80 win over UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
“It was the first time with the game on the line that I had a chance to win it,” Owes told reporters. “It felt good. My mind was clear. I wasn’t even thinking about the free throws.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. I heard the crowd but it didn’t bother me.”
A scout’s take on Radenovic, supplied to DraftExpress.com, describes the former Arizona forward adequately: “Radenovic did a great job setting the tone for his team by facilitating Arizona’s offense from the high-post, finding open cutters with his excellent court vision, setting screens, putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the basket when defenders closed off the angle for his shot, even going glass on one occasions after utilizing a nifty pump-fake.”
Radenovic’s mid-season acquisition in the 2003-04 season was one of Olson’s major recruiting coups and showed how the Hall of Fame coach could cross continents to bring talent to Tucson. Radenovic, a Serbian, joined the UA two days before Christmas in 2003 after graduating from the Secondary School of Sports in Belgrade, Sebria-Montenegro, earlier that year.
After playing two seasons for the KK Partizan youth team, he was classified as a 19-year-old freshman when he joined the Cats.
“He is fundamentally sound and has the skills to play both inside and outside,” Olson said of Radenovic upon his arrival in Tucson.
Little-known fact: Radenovic has the UA’s best free-throw percentage for the Cats (87.2 in 2006-07) for a player who attempted as many free throws as he did (172) in a season. He is also the only non-guard on the UA’s top 10 list for free-throw percentage in a season.
Joseph Blair (1993-1996) vs. Channing Frye (2002-2005)
Nobody has shot the ball better from the field at Arizona throughout a career than Joseph Blair, who made 61.3 percent of his attempts (470 of 767) from 2002 to 2006.
Channing Frye is also among the top 10 field-goal shooters in Arizona history at 56.2 percent. Frye attempted 490 more shots in his career (1,257) than Blair. That should not take away from Blair’s top ranking. Blair was the model for efficiency, taking shots when he should. He also knew how to throw his weight around to get that tip-on or post-up shot.
Furthermore, Blair did not have to shoot much playing mostly with guys like Damon Stoudamire and Reeves. That’s not to insinuate Blair and Arizona’s frontcourt players were bit players. Oklahoma State’s Bryant “Big Country” Reeves can attest to how valuable Blair, Owes and Co., were to the Wildcats’ success.
Blair helped shut down the much-publicized Reeves, holding Big Country to only 12 points and six rebounds in Arizona’s 97-84 victory on Dec. 5, 1993. Big Country entered the game averaging 28.5 points and 11.1 rebounds a game.
“I think we’re very highly underrated,” Blair told reporters after the game. He finished with 14 points and eight rebounds in only 20 minutes.
“In all the magazines, they say we have a great backcourt, but there’s always a question mark on the front court. This shows we can play with the big men.”
In this matchup, Frye would likely try to draw Blair away from the hoop and attack him with his face to the basket. Blair, however, was athletic for his size (6-10, 265) and could keep step with Frye (6-11, 245).
1993-1994 key reserves: Corey Williams, Joe McLean, Jarvis Kelley and Kevin Flanagan
2004-2005 key reserves: Jawann McClellan, Chris Rodgers and Kirk Walters
Williams, McLean and Flanagan were consumate team players who did not mind their reserve roles. Olson could count on his 1994 Final Four team to be on the same page because of the leadership skills of Stoudamire and the role acceptance of every player on the team. As lethal as Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves were starters, Williams and McLean were damaging as well to opponents because of the backbone they brought to the 1993-94 team.
Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen once wrote that season: “You don’t beat Arizona when Joe McLean and Corey Williams are beating you every which way but loose.”
McClellan, Flanagan and Walters embodied the same team-first characteristics. Rodgers, who earned his bachelor’s degree in only 3 1/2 years, was a highly-touted recruit who never found his niche in Tucson. He was often in Olson’s doghouse and was eventually suspended from the team in the 2005-06 season. He appealed that suspension was allowed to return, but he hardly flourished.
McClellan should have a plaque at McKale Center to honor what he went through as a Wildcat. He did not transfer or give up after his father passed away when he was a freshman. Injuries or academic difficulties could have derailed him, but they did not. Any coach can point to his picture and tell his players that if they had his kind of heart, everything else would take care of itself.
Don’t forget: For all the links, Twitter feeds and news feeds related to Arizona and its opponents, go to Morales’ site WILDABOUTAZCATS.NET. No other Arizona sports Web site is like it!