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.
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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.”