“We want Wiepking! … We want Wiepking!”
Those are happy words from the Arizona pep band and for Wildcats fans, signifying a game so far in the bag that it’s time for senior walk-on Max Wiepking to reap his rewards of playing time, often measured in terms of seconds.
The pep band had good reason to encourage coach Sean Miller last week. As the Wildcats cruised to the Sweet 16, Wiepking made his NCAA Tournament debut in the final 43 seconds against Belmont and was on the court for the last 1:38 of the win over Harvard.
“It meant a lot,” he said. “I’m really thankful for the opportunity, and it’s something I’m going to remember for a long time.”
Perhaps that’s it for the 6-7 forward. The sixth-seeded Wildcats take on second-seeded Ohio State in a Sweet 16 game in the West region from Los Angeles on Thursday, and there isn’t expected to be any mop-up time.
But it never really was about playing time. It’s about being part of a team, a top program, making the kind of college friends that never leave you.
Wiepking arrived at Arizona with the recruiting class of Derrick Williams, Momo Jones, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Kyryl Natyazhko.
“We’ll be friends for the rest of our lives, and that’s a special thing,” Wiepking said.
“I text with Derrick about every day. I talk to Kyryl, even though he’s in the Ukraine. We’re trying to plan a Vegas trip with everyone, one last time.”
Wiepking says he has one semester of college left before graduating in December with a major in Sports and Society. He’ll be around the team in the fall, too, learning the role of a video coordinator. His ultimate goal: Work in the front office of an NBA team or be a sports agent.
He wasn’t on the official travel roster two years when the Cats advanced to the regional final, so he simply appreciates being able to put on the Arizona uniform at least one more time, even if he didn’t get a chance to launch a shot in the NCAA Tournament.
“I was just happy to be out there,” said Wiepking, who made 3 of 5 3-pointers in the regular season. “I don’t want to mess up my percentage.”
More NCAA Tournament coverage:
The opponent’s view: Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross to the rescue
Arizona-Ohio State: What they’re saying
Scott Terrell: The case for claiming all of Arizona’s Sweet 16 appearances