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RELATED LINK: Analyzing Arizona’s recruiting classes since 1972
Arizona coach Sean Miller has a potential top five recruiting class to soften the blow if Derrick Williams foregoes his last two years with the Wildcats to enter the NBA draft and hires an agent.
What did former coach Fred Snowden, bless his soul, have in mind in a similar situation in 1974 with the threat of losing prolific-scoring sophomores Eric Money and Coniel Norman to the NBA?
This is what was written by Steve Weston of the Tucson Citizen near the end of Snowden’s second season at Arizona on March 2, 1974:
No. 1 on most (recruiting) lists this season is 6-11 Moses Malone from Petersburg, Va. “We hope to have him visit,” said Snowden. “Of course, he’d be a great asset to our program.”
A great asset? How about a validation for a national championship?
Moses, a 13-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer, never took that recruiting visit to Tucson, although he reportedly became interested in Snowden and the Wildcats after watching them play New Mexico in Albuquerque that season. He signed a national letter of intent with Maryland but eventually went straight from Petersburg High School to the ABA in 1974.
Money and Norman, meanwhile, were chosen in the NBA draft that year. Money was taken in the second round (the 33rd pick overall) and Norman was the first pick in the third round (37th overall). That equates to early-second round selections today because the number of NBA teams has increased from 18 then to 30 now.
How did the Wildcats respond the following season after they finished 19-7 and failed to reach the postseason in the final year with Money and Norman? They actually had a better season, finishing 22-7 after losing to Drake in the championship game of the defunct National Commissioner’s Invitational Tournament (which featured teams that finished second in their respective conference).
The Wildcats excelled behind All-Western Athletic Conference frontcourt players Bob Elliott and Al Fleming, and a solid recruiting class that included playmaker Gilbert Myles and burly forward Phil Taylor.
Sports Illustrated, noting the Wildcats would take on a more physical look without Money and Norman, rated the UA No. 16 that year in its preseason Top 20. Snowden wanted more of a fearsome defensive presence after the loss of his star guards, who combined for more than 40 points a game in their UA careers.
Taylor, SI wrote, “bears a strong resemblance to Sonny Liston.” Snowden, known for his hyperbole, told the magazine that the team would be his best at Arizona after he went 35-17 in his first two seasons in Tucson.
Snowden proclaimed that Arizona would be “one of the five best in America by season’s end.” He looked like a prophet when the Wildcats started 11-1, but they staggered down the stretch.
Chances are that Miller, who is more close to the vest, will not proclaim next season that Arizona will be one of the nation’s top five teams if Williams does not return.