[ {"id":"99271c76-fb96-11e6-be06-db84172621f3","type":"article","starttime":"1488061740","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-25T15:29:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1488064603","priority":40,"sections":[{"arizonawildcats":"sports/arizonawildcats"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Arizona Wildcats hire Central Michigan's Dave Heeke as new athletic director","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/article_99271c76-fb96-11e6-be06-db84172621f3.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/arizona-wildcats-hire-central-michigan-s-dave-heeke-as-new/article_99271c76-fb96-11e6-be06-db84172621f3.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/arizona-wildcats-hire-central-michigan-s-dave-heeke-as-new/article_99271c76-fb96-11e6-be06-db84172621f3.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Zack Rosenblatt\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Central Michigan's Dave Heeke is Arizona's pick, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"f4c1d6c0-fb96-11e6-8f8a-633517f18bdb","description":"Dave Heeke.","byline":"","hireswidth":1200,"hiresheight":1800,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/4c/f4c1d6c0-fb96-11e6-8f8a-633517f18bdb/58b2027c6793c.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"620","height":"422","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/4c/f4c1d6c0-fb96-11e6-8f8a-633517f18bdb/58b2027c66749.image.jpg?crop=1054%2C718%2C69%2C230&resize=620%2C422&order=crop%2Cresize"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"68","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/4c/f4c1d6c0-fb96-11e6-8f8a-633517f18bdb/58b2027c66749.image.jpg?crop=1054%2C718%2C69%2C230&resize=100%2C68&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"204","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/4c/f4c1d6c0-fb96-11e6-8f8a-633517f18bdb/58b2027c66749.image.jpg?crop=1054%2C718%2C69%2C230&resize=300%2C204&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"698","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/4c/f4c1d6c0-fb96-11e6-8f8a-633517f18bdb/58b2027c66749.image.jpg?crop=1054%2C718%2C69%2C230&resize=1024%2C698&order=crop%2Cresize"}}}],"revision":11,"commentID":"99271c76-fb96-11e6-be06-db84172621f3","body":"

The Arizona Wildcats have found their next athletic director, announcing the hiring of Central Michigan's Dave Heeke.

Heeke replaces Greg Byrne, who is scheduled to start at Alabama this week. He comes to Arizona after 11 years as CMU's athletic director, and before that he spent 18 years in the Pac-12 as part of Oregon's athletic department, finishing his tenure there as senior associate athletics director/chief of staff.

\u201cI couldn\u2019t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family,\" Heeke said in a statement. \"It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference...

Heeke has no Arizona ties, but connects to two of the most popular names in Wildcats sports history. Heeke and former ADs \"Pop\" McKale and Cedric Dempsey are all graduates of Albion College in Michigan.

Dempsey, along with former UA deputy athletic director Kathleen \"Rocky\" LaRose, was hired shortly after Byrne's departure in January to help UA president Ann Weaver Hart in the search for a new athletic director.\u00a0

According to the UA's press release, Dempsey and LaRose communicated with as many as 65 candidates for the job. At various points the Wildcats were thought to be considering a host people for the job, including TCU's Chris del Conte, South Florida's Mark Harlan, Houston's Hunter Yurachek and Kansas State's John Currie.

Since Byrne's departure, senior associate athletic director Erika Barnes had assumed the position in an interim capacity, but Barnes did not pursue the full-time position.\u00a0

Going forward, LaRose will oversee the department's transition to the new athletic director.\u00a0

The hiring of Heeke received a stamp of approval from Byrne, who said in Arizona's press release that Heeke was an \"outstanding hire.\"

\"His vast experience working with student-athletes, coaches, staff, fans and university communities at CMU and in the Pac-12 makes Dave the perfect selection,\" Byrne said.\u00a0

Heeke called Arizona one of the \"premiere athletic departments in the country.

\"Arizona has developed a storied history and tradition and I\u2019m looking forward to being a part of the next chapter in Tucson. I can\u2019t wait to Bear Down.\"

At Central Michigan, Heeke spearheaded fundraising for $22 million in renovations to CMU's basketball arena and fitness center. He also oversaw the planning and design of a $6 million lacrosse and soccer stadium, as well as $10 million in renovations for other facilities, including baseball, gymnastics and softball.

Hart cited Heeke's experience and his \"sustained level of accomplishment\" as reasons for his hiring.\u00a0

\"Dave is a perfect match for our Wildcat family,\" Hart said.\u00a0

Byrne often talked about the need for some changes around Arizona's athletic department, including renovations at Arizona Stadium and UA softball's Hillenbrand Stadium and for the modernization of Drachman Stadium (track) and the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center (swimming).

UA football coach Rich Rodriguez has long pushed for an indoor practice facility, too. Rodriguez's future will be one to watch with a new athletic director in tow, as the UA coach was hired by Byrne and the Wildcats are coming off a troubling 3-9 season.

Click on the attached stories for more about Arizona's search.

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Arizona officially hired Theron Aych as its wide receivers coach Saturday.

The former receivers coach at UTEP was on campus last week and, given Saturday\u2019s announcement, should be on the field for next week\u2019s practices.

The Wildcats are schedule to practice Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. The latter is the team\u2019s \u201cSpring Showcase,\u201d which is open to the public. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Friday that he plans to fill the remaining on-field assistant opening with a full-time special-teams coach, whom he expects to hire within the next two weeks.

Aych spent only one season at UTEP. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator at Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas. In 2015, when the Rams led Division II in total offense, Aych was a finalist for the Division II American Football Coach Association Assistant Coach of the Year award.

At Central Missouri, one of Aych\u2019s previous stops, he coached Delanie Walker, the star tight end of the Tennessee Titans.

To read the official UA release on Aych\u2019s hiring, click here.

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TEMPE \u2014 \u201cKing!\u201d a teammate shouts from across Tempe High School's crowded weight room.

My-King Johnson, an imposing figure even in a room full of football players, looks up mid-push-up, and responds to the summons to the coach's office. He glides across the room in seconds, then slides\u00a0into a chair in\u00a0coach Brian Walker\u2019s office. The chair stresses to contain\u00a0his 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound frame. \u00a0

Johnson leans back, breathes and smiles. It's been a couple weeks since Johnson signed a national letter of intent to play at the University of Arizona, and he says he's \u201cstill excited to be a Wildcat.\u201d

The UA is happy to have him too \u2014 after all, the senior defensive end has the potential to make an impact on the team the moment he arrives. Johnson's physical ability and potential attracted attention and offers from college football's blue-blood programs. He verbally committed to UCLA before flipping to Arizona.\u00a0

Johnson talks about football, family and his future.

Also this: he is set to become the first active openly gay scholarship player in major-college football\u00a0history.

When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach's reaction \u2014 \"We want you to be a Wildcat\" \u2014 was exactly what he wanted to hear.\u00a0

Now, the 17-year-old is an unintentional trailblazer.\u00a0

\u201cI do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,\u201d Johnson said about being open about his sexuality.

\u201cBut whatever.\u201d

An 'old soul'

Nadette Lewis is ecstatic that her only son has a full-ride college scholarship.

\u201cWhere I grew up, I didn\u2019t have any kind of opportunities,\u201d she said. \u201cNobody told me about these things, and I grew up in the 'hood, where nobody went to school.\u201d

Lewis\u00a0attended South Mountain High School in the mid-1990s. She put her athleticism to good use, playing both basketball and volleyball, all while navigating one of Phoenix's most gang-infested neighborhoods.

Less than two years into high school, her athletic career ended.\u00a0

\u201cI was pregnant,\u201d Lewis said, \u201cso I didn\u2019t get to play too much sports.\u201d

At age 16, Lewis had her first of three daughters, Lonnie.\u00a0

When Lewis had her son three years later, his father wanted to name him My-King. A few years later, they named his sister A-Queen. The youngest sibling is 10 years old and named Nadette.

Neither mom nor son say they know the reason for his unusual name. Johnson's father has been in and out of jail since his son was born. The two are not close.\u00a0

Lewis juggled two, and sometimes three jobs to keep herself and her family afloat, she says, \"to make sure we weren\u2019t on welfare, that we weren\u2019t a statistic.\u201d\u00a0\u00a0

Two years ago, Lewis moved to Seattle. She gave her son the option of staying in Tempe with his grandmother as long as he kept his grades up and focused on his future. So Johnson carries a 3.8 GPA.\u00a0

Johnson has always been smart and quick-witted; his mom calls him an \u201cold soul\u201d with a maturity beyond his years. Johnson played tuba in the Tempe High School band for two years, performing at halftime while wearing his football jersey and cleats. Johnson loves music \u2014 for a time, he considered quitting football to focus on his other passion.

Walker convinced him otherwise.\u00a0

\"I knew athleticism was in his family, and he's got all the tools,\" Walker said. \"He's always had a work ethic. You couple that, along with his frame, and the sky's the limit.\"\u00a0

Coming out

Johnson was 12 years old when he came out to his friends and family.\u00a0

He barely remembers how he did it, just that he recalled it being difficult. He called family and friends, and told others in person. He saved his mom for last.

Johnson told her during a trip to the grocery store.\u00a0

Her response?

\"I love you for who you are as a person,\" Lewis told him. \"Sexuality? It doesn\u2019t matter. \u2026 That\u2019s how I teach my children. Love who you are no matter what you are, or what you look like. You have to love yourself. If you love yourself first, then everybody else will respect that and have no choice but to love you.\u201d

Being gay, Johnson says, is simply a part of who he is.\u00a0

\"I\u2019m a very honest person,\" he said. \"I just don\u2019t see how I could be living an honest, truthful life and have that in the background.\u201d

By the time Johnson arrived at Tempe and went out for the football team, he already knew most of his teammates from playing middle school football together.

And they knew him \u2014 Johnson was, and is, open about his sexuality.

Teammate and friend Alfonso Arispe calls Johnson's honesty \"cool.\"

\"I love how open he is,\" Arispe said. \"He doesn\u2019t care because he\u2019s focused on what he\u2019s doing, and he\u2019s focused on himself. Clearly, it shouldn\u2019t affect anyone else, but no matter what, he doesn\u2019t care about that. It doesn\u2019t bother him one bit.\u201d

A welcoming coach

When Amey played college football and in the NFL, the idea of a teammate coming out of the closet was taboo.

That\u2019s starting to change. Esera Tuaolo came out in 2002 following an eight-year NFL career. Missouri\u2019s Michael Sam came out as he prepared for the 2014 NFL Draft. Arizona State offensive lineman Chip Sarafin, a walk-on, told his teammates he was gay later that year. Princeton\u2019s Mason Darrow did the same in 2015.

Those handful of names are it.\u00a0

\u201cIt is going to, until many generations die off, it is still going to be a stereotype, that gay men are weak and can\u2019t play sports and can\u2019t play big, tough sports like football,\" said Cyd Zeigler, the co-founder of OutSports.com . \"Even with defensive ends like Esera Tuaolo and Michael Sam \u2014 big, strong, masculine men \u2014 coming out, we still have the stereotype. \u2026 (Johnson) will chip away at that, but that takes generations to go away.\"

Amey lights up when he talks about Johnson, mostly because he believes he can be an impact player. But the idea that Johnson will be a pioneer in being an openly gay athlete also has the coach \"pretty excited.\"\u00a0

\u201cWhen I found out, I really couldn\u2019t sleep,\u201d Amey said. \u201cAnd it wasn\u2019t like I was uncomfortable with it. I was just like, all right, it\u2019s different, it\u2019s new. \u2026 I said, \u2018Look, you are who you are, I am who I am, and I\u2019m going to coach you the same way. I\u2019m going to treat you the same way. I\u2019m going to get on you the same way as everybody else. There\u2019s no difference. You do what you do.\u2019 I said, \u2018When the players find out, especially my room, I\u2019m going to tell (those) dudes: 'Look, you gotta have his back.'\"\u00a0

Amey's enthusiasm for Johnson joining the team isn't surprising. Arizona was the first college to offer Johnson a scholarship, and Amey \u2014 the former Arizona State standout turned Wildcats assistant \u2014 led the recruiting effort.\u00a0

Amey gave Johnson his space when USC, UCLA, Oregon, Texas A&M, and Arizona State showed interest. But the UA coach let Johnson know that he was there for him.\u00a0

Arizona reappeared after Johnson and UCLA parted ways just before signing day. He flipped to the Wildcats soon after.

The Wildcats need him. Johnson amassed 22 sacks as a junior, including 6 1/2 in one late-season game against Seton Catholic. He added 21 1/2 more sacks, 19 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles as a senior.

The scouting report on Johnson: he\u2019s big, he's strong, he\u2019s fast, he\u2019s physical. More than anything, though, it\u2019s his motor that sticks out. The kid never gives up on a play. His highlight reel is filled with plays where an offensive lineman brings him down, or shoves him to the side, and Johnson emerges\u00a0to make a play.

Johnson's Tempe team traveled to Tucson in August for a game against Catalina Foothills. Tempe was defeated quite handily \u2014 final score: 35-7 \u2014 but the Falcons had trouble containing Johnson, who sacked the quarterback three times and hurried him twice.

That quarterback? Rhett Rodriguez, an Arizona signee and the son of UA coach Rich Rodriguez.

On one hit, Johnson sped around an overmatched defender and floored Rodriguez\u2019s blind side. The force of the hit knocked the ball out of Rodriguez\u2019s hands before he could throw it, and it took him a few seconds to stand up and gather himself for the next play.

\u201cI play football,\u201d Arispe said, \u201cbut he\u2019s a football player.\u201d

Johnson will fit in nicely on the Wildcats' revamped defense, Amey said. Amey likes to talk about the underdogs and overlooked athletes who fill his defensive line room.

\u201cIt\u2019s no different than (nose tackle) Parker Zellers: OK, he\u2019s only 5-10, 240, but he\u2019s a football player,\u201d Amey said. \u201cEverybody\u2019s got their own background. Who they are, what they are. \u2026 I\u2019m fine with it, and honestly I can\u2019t wait to get him here and get it going.\u201d

Amey has reason to be excited. Those kids of are a rarity. Rarer still are the ones that choose Arizona.

\"I can\u2019t wait to be like, \u2018Yeah, I got to coach the first openly gay kid to be an All-Pac-12 defensive end,' \u201d he said.

A mother and son bond

It\u2019s Wednesday, and Johnson's track and field practice is starting. He finishes his workout and darts outside.

In Seattle, his mom is finishing up her shift as a nurse. As always, Lewis is thinking about her son and what his future holds.

Mother and son speak every day. She worries about him. She worries how he will be treated.\u00a0

Lewis wondered how he would be welcomed\u00a0in a high school football locker room. Tempe's players accepted Johnson, but that's no guarantee that things will be the same in college. Factor in opposing fans, message boards and the spotlight that comes with making history, and Johnson could face a hard road.\u00a0

\"It\u2019s hard enough being a black kid in America,\u201d Lewis says. \u201cThen I worry about him being a football jock, then I worry about him being gay because it\u2019s still not so accepted. Everybody perceives him as a dumb jock because he is a football star, which he\u2019s not, but then you\u2019re gay and a football player? That\u2019s not heard of yet, and maybe it\u2019s still not accepted in the football world.\u201d

The support Johnson has received doesn't surprise Zeigler, the co-founder of OutSports.com.

\u201cUnfortunately, we continue to talk about it in sports as if gay athletes should be afraid. We perpetuate that fear,\" he said. \"The reality is, when LGBT athletes come out, it is the rare exception that it is not accepted by their teammates. So his experience, whether he came out at 12 or 20, it\u2019s going to be pretty much the same thing.\"\u00a0

Johnson says he's ready for whatever comes.\u00a0

When he was a baby, a doctor heard his name and his eyes widened.

\u201cThat\u2019s one hell of a name for a guy to have to live up to,\u201d the doctor told Lewis.

\u201cHe\u2019s done an excellent job living up to his name,\" his mother says.

Johnson is aware of the expectations his name carries.

\u201cMy name definitely motivates me,\u201d Johnson said.

\u201cWhen someone\u2019s looking down at a roster, or they\u2019re looking at a page, they\u2019re going to say \u2026 let me see what he\u2019s about.\"

"}, {"id":"94012a64-fb7a-11e6-a070-d3a6414ccf3f","type":"article","starttime":"1488041400","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-25T09:50:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1488046413","priority":45,"sections":[{"pascoe":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/pascoe"},{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"UA-UCLA pregame: GameDay's Williams picks Bruins","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/pascoe/article_94012a64-fb7a-11e6-a070-d3a6414ccf3f.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/pascoe/ua-ucla-pregame-gameday-s-williams-picks-bruins/article_94012a64-fb7a-11e6-a070-d3a6414ccf3f.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/pascoe/ua-ucla-pregame-gameday-s-williams-picks-bruins/article_94012a64-fb7a-11e6-a070-d3a6414ccf3f.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star","prologue":"About 1,200 UA students made for a rowdy backdrop at GameDay's filming.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["arizona wildcats basketball","jay williams","espn gameday","lauri markkanen","dillon brooks"],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#toptwo","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"21e4ff84-fb82-11e6-bccd-370476039df0","description":"The Zona Zoo provided a rowdy backdrop for GameDay in the East side stands of McKale Center.","byline":"Drew McCullough Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":1200,"hiresheight":900,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/2/1e/21e4ff84-fb82-11e6-bccd-370476039df0/58b1c2da796c6.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"620","height":"465","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/2/1e/21e4ff84-fb82-11e6-bccd-370476039df0/58b1c2da780d6.image.jpg?resize=620%2C465"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"75","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/2/1e/21e4ff84-fb82-11e6-bccd-370476039df0/58b1c2da780d6.image.jpg?resize=100%2C75"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"225","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/2/1e/21e4ff84-fb82-11e6-bccd-370476039df0/58b1c2da780d6.image.jpg?resize=300%2C225"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"768","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/2/1e/21e4ff84-fb82-11e6-bccd-370476039df0/58b1c2da780d6.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C768"}}}],"revision":44,"commentID":"94012a64-fb7a-11e6-a070-d3a6414ccf3f","body":"

Maybe the Zona Zoo can take some heart in the fact that Jay Williams was partly wrong the last time.

In GameDay's 2015 appearance at McKale Center, Williams revealed a T-shirt that said \"#Bear Down 4 Indy,\" and while UA beat UCLA later that day, the Wildcats never made it to the Final Four in Indianapolis. On Saturday, he teased the student section about that moment and asked if they should \"Bear Down for Phoenix.\"

Then he ripped off his dress shirt to reveal a UCLA jersey and said \"Nope.\"

Jay Williams gets teepeed for picking UCLA pic.twitter.com/SbjHC67XFV

\u2014 Bruce Pascoe (@BrucePascoe) February 25, 2017

(Staffers had provided the Zona Zoo with the toilet paper beforehand \"in case\" Williams picked UCLA).

Williams' pick wrapped up the third basketball GameDay held at McKale, which also featured Lauri Markkanen winning one of its Oscar-style \"awards\" - his was for \"best foreign film\" and the Finnish freshman beat out Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski (Poland) and Iowa's Peter Jok (Sudan).

Markkanen appeared on a pretaped video to offer thanks. (For the second straight time, no UA players or coaches showed up at GameDay, though they did in 2011-12).

Other \"awards:\" Oregon's Dillon Brooks won for Best Visual Performance (a.k.a. flopping), Siena coach Jimmy Patsos won for Best Animated Feature (for his \"air handshakes\" after Rider skipped the postgame handshake line), and Kansas' Frank Mason won for Best Actor in a Leading Role (this drew cheers from the Zona Zoo, who had roundly booed Lonzo Ball's nomination).

The show also featured a great video from Cleveland of the four Cavaliers with alumni ties to today's UA-UCLA game.

Richard Jefferson, still rocking his Kyrie Irving-inspired \"Flat World Champions\" T-shirt, teased Kevin Love about UCLA's good players while Derrick Williams and Channing Frye joined in.

\"You have Lonzo Ball. You have Lonzo Ball. And you have Lonzo Ball,\" Jefferson said.

Cavs teammates now. College rivals forever.

UCLA-Arizona in a top-5 clash on ESPN tonight: Who ya got? pic.twitter.com/fLJLLSV3p5

\u2014 ESPN (@espn) February 25, 2017

A clip of the Arizona baseball parody of \"Major League\" was also shown during GameDay show.

Among other discussions held by the crew: Rick Pitino's interaction with a fan, Josh Hart being an Eagle Scout and whether Northwestern needs to worry about making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance (Bilas said no).

Among the signs waved in the Zona Zoo:

\"LaVar Ball is Crazier than Bill Walton.\"

\"Daddy Issues (with Ball mugshot)\"

\"Pay my tuition please: 505-801-8045\"

\"I need money for the Pac-12 Tournament\"

\"Lonzo Ball pours his milk before his cereal\"

\"UCLA #5 Fake News.\"

And:\u00a0\"Fire Goodell\"

Big heads waved included several UA players plus Erika Barnes, Bill Walton and Steve Kerr.

We had a live blog of the GameDay filming.

USA Today calls the UA-UCLA game the \"game of the weekend.\"

The Bruins could use a win to convince the NCAA selection committee of a better seed.

Arizona is between a 1.5-2.0-point favorite, according to VegasInsider.

After the UA-UCLA game at 6:15 p.m., ESPN will show Gonzaga trying to complete a perfect regular season against BYU starting at 8:15.

UA-signee-turned-Aussie-pro Terrance Ferguson finished his season\u00a0Down Under\u00a0averaging 4.6 points and 1.1 rebounds, but he's still projected as a first-round pick in the June NBA Draft (so are three players in today's UA-UCLA game).

"}, {"id":"c568bf19-7cf5-5de6-99e5-b04b92be4d62","type":"article","starttime":"1488000600","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-24T22:30:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1488035665","priority":35,"sections":[{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"}],"flags":{"top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"UCLA takes advantage of second chances, blasts Wildcats in McKale Center","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/article_c568bf19-7cf5-5de6-99e5-b04b92be4d62.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/ucla-takes-advantage-of-second-chances-blasts-wildcats-in-mckale/article_c568bf19-7cf5-5de6-99e5-b04b92be4d62.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/ucla-takes-advantage-of-second-chances-blasts-wildcats-in-mckale/article_c568bf19-7cf5-5de6-99e5-b04b92be4d62.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By PJ Brown Special to the Arizona Daily Star","prologue":"Friday night was a game of second chances at McKale Center. Unfortunately for the Arizona women\u2019s basketball team, the Wildcats weren\u2019t on the receiving end. The 15th-ranked UCLA Bruins converted on 22 second-chance shots and grabbed 45 rebounds on the way to a 79-56 win at McKale Center. \u201cWe weren\u2019t aggressive at first, we were intimated by their height,\u201d said senior Dejza James, who played 28 minutes, scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"c5d2dc87-ec02-57f5-bbd1-833129a2544f","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"620","height":"349","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/5d/c5d2dc87-ec02-57f5-bbd1-833129a2544f/58795d9b8fe77.image.jpg?resize=620%2C349"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/5d/c5d2dc87-ec02-57f5-bbd1-833129a2544f/58795d9b8fe77.image.jpg?resize=100%2C56"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/5d/c5d2dc87-ec02-57f5-bbd1-833129a2544f/58795d9b8fe77.image.jpg?resize=300%2C169"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/5d/c5d2dc87-ec02-57f5-bbd1-833129a2544f/58795d9b8fe77.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":5,"commentID":"c568bf19-7cf5-5de6-99e5-b04b92be4d62","body":"

Friday night was a game of second chances at McKale Center.

Unfortunately for the Arizona women\u2019s basketball team, the Wildcats weren\u2019t on the receiving end.

The 15th-ranked UCLA Bruins converted on 22 second-chance shots and grabbed 45 rebounds on the way to a 79-56 win at McKale Center.

\u201cWe weren\u2019t aggressive at first, we were intimated by their height,\u201d said senior Dejza James, who played 28 minutes, scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds.

Added senior LaBrittney Jones: \u201cThey are a bigger team and we had to do a better job boxing out.\u201d

Jones led all scorers with 26 points and seven rebounds. She moved within five points of tying Aimee Grzyb (who played from 2001-04) with 1,227 points for 12th on the UA career scoring list.

\u201cI\u2019ll take it,\u201d Jones said of her scoring effort. \u201cBut I would like a closer, better and more competitive game from us. We didn\u2019t really execute tonight.\u201d

It was also a case of a few hot hands, as UCLA\u2019s Jordin Canada and Nicole Kornet each scored 21 points.

While UA was down only by three at the end of the first quarter and held the Bruins to only 33 percent shooting from the floor, it seemed like they were down by more.

\u201cWe never could get anything going,\u201d Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. \u201cI looked up and we were only down by three or four and it felt like 20. I don\u2019t know why things never got going.

\u201cIt\u2019s hard to play against a zone that long. We should have rebounded, but it\u2019s hard to box out in the zone, so it was one and done. We never had an answer.\u201d

In that first quarter as the Bruins\u2019 shots weren\u2019t falling, they had open looks and there was a sense that one of the top teams in the Pac-12 would break loose at some point. And, they did.

Kornet hit her first three pointer (she finished with three) with 3:40 left in the second quarter. Kari Korver followed with a three, and just like that the Bruins were up 31-18.

They went into the half with a 36-23 lead.

While the Wildcats kept fighting until the buzzer, Barnes was not happy with their overall effort. UCLA improved to 21-7 overall and 12-5 in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats fell to 13-15 and 4-13. Arizona will wrap up its regular season Sunday with a game against USC.

\u201cAt half time we talked about strategy, attitude and work ethic,\u201d said Barnes. \u201cWe weren\u2019t playing hard; that\u2019s not my style. I can\u2019t live with that. It is not the identity of this Arizona basketball program.

\u201cTonight, no one took the initiative to get the team rallied and find a way to fix it. I expect hustle, diving after balls. Without the little things, you don\u2019t win games, you don\u2019t beat No. 15 at home.\u201d

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Quick hitters from the Arizona Wildcats\u2019 media availability after their fourth practice of spring Friday afternoon:

* UA coach Rich Rodriguez confirmed that his plan is to hire a full-time special-teams coach, and he expects that to be done within the next two weeks. Arizona is expected to announce the addition of receivers coach Theron Aych any day not, but Rodriguez couldn\u2019t comment on that because the hiring is not official yet.

*\u00a0Rodriguez said freshman tailback Nathan Tilford is among the players who have looked better in pads than shorts.

*\u00a0Rodriguez said tailbacks J.J. Taylor and Nick Wilson took some \"quality reps\" today after being held back in previous practices. \"I like where we're at at tailback,\" Rodriguez said.

*\u00a0Can quarterbacks improve how they see the field? Rodriguez believes they can - and that Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate will over the rest of spring.

*\u00a0Rodriguez said 2-4 offensive linemen have been banged up each practice, limiting that unit\u2019s capacity to rotate. None of the injuries is considered long term, and Rodriguez is hopeful everyone will be healthy by the middle of next week.

*\u00a0Asked about the team\u2019s cornerback play last year, Rodriguez said: \"Not very good. That's putting it mildly.\" He said the corners as a whole need to get bigger, stronger and more consistent

*\u00a0Rodriguez conceded that the '16 regulars, Dane Cruikshank and Jace Whittaker, had little Division I experience. He expects that group to improve in 2017.

*\u00a0Cornerback Sammy Morrison revealed that he suffered a partially torn ACL in spring last year and then tore a hamstring on the first day of training camp, forcing him to redshirt. Fellow corner Lorenzo Burns ended up redshirting after suffering a sprained MCL in Week 2 against Grambling State. Both are healthy now.

*\u00a0Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said he wanted to move back to the secondary after coaching linebackers last year and told Rodriguez as much during his search for a new defensive assistant. Rodriguez hired Scott Boone to coach linebackers, enabling Yates to make that move.

*\u00a0I asked Yates about Rodriguez\u2019s blunt assessment of the 2016 defense. Yates agreed with it. \"It was bad,\u201d he said. Yates expects improvement with more talent and familiarity in Year 2.

*\u00a0In videos posted by Arizona of Friday's closed practice, tackle Cody Creason looked impressive in blocking drills.

*\u00a0Linebacker Jacob Colacion participated in the \u201cboard drill,\u201d a sign that he\u2019s able to practice now after being held out because of a concussion.

*\u00a0Defensive end Jalen Cochran left the practice field with a helmet, a possible sign that he\u2019s back after being limited to start spring camp.

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In 2001, one of the best games in Pac-12 history, his short jumper sank No. 1 Stanford.","byline":"David Sanders / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":2000,"hiresheight":1151,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/1e/e1ef1e3b-7f94-5599-9cda-7014c0c01bf8/58b0cc22d481c.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"620","height":"357","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/1e/e1ef1e3b-7f94-5599-9cda-7014c0c01bf8/58b0cc229ea92.image.jpg?resize=620%2C357"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"58","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/1e/e1ef1e3b-7f94-5599-9cda-7014c0c01bf8/58b0cc229ea92.image.jpg?resize=100%2C58"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"173","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/1e/e1ef1e3b-7f94-5599-9cda-7014c0c01bf8/58b0cc229ea92.image.jpg?resize=300%2C173"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"589","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/1e/e1ef1e3b-7f94-5599-9cda-7014c0c01bf8/58b0cc229ea92.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C589"}}}],"revision":16,"commentID":"3b3b2db5-0ee3-5196-9920-7669d42bfbda","body":"

Access to McKale Center on Friday was almost game-day tight. Unless you were part of the ESPN production brigade, or could correctly punch an access code into the security system, or are related to Houdini, the building was impenetrable.

At noon, as UA point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright walked 40 yards from McKale to the school\u2019s Ginny L. Clements Academic Center, two security guards patrolled the arena\u2019s main entry on Fred Enke Drive.

It made you wonder if Lady Gaga was scheduled to perform.

There might yet be singing and dancing if No. 4 Arizona beats No. 5 UCLA in the Pac-12\u2019s Game of the Year/Decade/Century on Saturday night, but it\u2019ll cost you to be part of the crowd.

Someone on Craigslist offered four second-row seats (and a parking pass) for $4,000. The StubHub market listed floor seats for $800 each, and advertised third-deck nosebleed seats for $224 apiece.

What is this, \u201cLa La Land?\u201d

Tucson isn\u2019t without basketball chops. McKale Center has been the site of No. 7 Duke vs. No. 9 Arizona in 1991, and a colossal showdown between No. 8 Kansas and No. 4 Arizona in 2001.

But this is different. This is the West Coast basketball equivalent of Michigan vs. Ohio State football at the Horseshoe or the Big House.

This is the 25th anniversary of the Greatest Game Ever Played at McKale, the pain from which still hasn\u2019t fully cleared the system of long-standing UA basketball followers.

Remember? On Jan.11, 1992, No. 2 UCLA broke Arizona\u2019s 71-game McKale Center winning streak, 89-87, on a jump shot by Darrick Martin with a fraction of a second on the clock.

Tickets for that game were advertised for $400 per pair in the Daily Star\u2019s classified section on a day Bruins shooting forward Don MacLean played the role of villain like no one else in UA history. MacLean scored 38 points, 23 in the second half.

He sprinted off the court, he said, \u201cbecause I didn\u2019t want someone to throw something at me.\u201d

The next day\u2019s newspaper pictured Lute Olson\u2019s wife, Bobbi, helping to wipe away the tears of their granddaughter, Julie Brase.

That was a Big Game and then some, and remains, in my respectful opinion, one of the three greatest games in league history. Given its late date on the calendar, its meaning to the conference race and the currency it lends to March bracketology , Saturday\u2019s game could make it a Mount Rushmore.

It might threaten No. 1 if the 3-point snipers from UCLA and Sean Miller\u2019s Eight-Man Gang can take it to the limit with no resolution until the final minute (or, please, Lord, the final possession).

It takes a special UCLA crew to win in Tucson; the Bruins have won just seven games in Tucson over the last 30 years. All seven of those McKale-conquering teams (a combined 205-42) won the Pac-12 championship. Four of them reached the Final Four. Two more made it to the Elite Eight.

Until now, the three most celebrated games in Pac-12 history have one common theme: the home team lost. Here\u2019s the list:

1. March 7, 1981: No. 5 Arizona State (22-3) at No. 1 Oregon State (26-0). It was Senior Day in Corvallis, the first of its kind, and the Beavers made the rookie mistake of honoring their seniors before the game. The pregame tears led to postgame tears.

When the Pac-10 player of the year, center Steve Johnson, was whistled for two fouls in the first 90 seconds, the ridiculously talented Fat Lever-Byron Scott Sun Devils soared to a 40-20 lead and won by 20.

\u201cThey didn\u2019t play like the No. 1 team,\u201d said ASU center Alton Lister, a future first-round draft pick. \u201cThey must have thought we were supposed to lay down for them. Hey, it was over at half.\u201d

2. Jan. 11, 1992: No. 2 UCLA (9-0) at No. 6 Arizona (10-1). A day before the game, Bruins coach Jim Harrick was asked if he had ever played in a more formidable setting.

\u201cWhen I was in high school we had to go to Cabin Creek, West Virginia, to play against Jerry West\u2019s team,\u201d he said. \u201cIt gave you some second thoughts.\u201d

UCLA was so good that MacLean, who was about to become the Pac-12\u2019s career scoring leader, wasn\u2019t even the top threat on his team. Shooting forward Tracy Murray averaged 23.9 points entering the game.

3. March 8, 2001: No. 8 Arizona (21-7) at No. 1 Stanford (27-1). The Wildcats had splintered at midseason when Olson\u2019s wife, Bobbi, died of ovarian cancer. But once Olson returned, Arizona became a force and reached the national championship game.

It won at Maples Pavilion 76-75 on Michael Wright\u2019s short jumper with three seconds remaining.

\u201cLet\u2019s meet again in Minneapolis,\u201d Olson said, referencing the site of that year\u2019s Final Four.

Alas, Stanford, which finished 31-3, was upset by Maryland in the Elite Eight.

Since then, over 16 long years, the Pac-12 has ached for a setting to match its predecessors of 1981, 1992 and 2001. In 2009, Lady Gaga recorded \u201cSo Happy I Could Die.\u201d

Saturday\u2019s winner will be able to sing along.

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When ESPN held its first college basketball \u201cGameDay\u201d at McKale on Jan. 28, 2012, it was the show.

The sports broadcasting behemoth, which had agreed to start a 12-year media rights deal with the Pac-12 in 2012-13, showed off its new conference partner, McKale Center and the 1,400 Arizona fans who showed up on an early Saturday morning.

Fans waved signs for the two-hour appearance, while Kyle Fogg and Nick Johnson came on to play a little \u201cKnow Your Roommate\u201d game, and the GameDay hosts sampled Sonoran hot dogs.

Then, later that day, Arizona lost to Washington when Tony Wroten swatted away Josiah Turner\u2019s last-second attempt to tie the game \u2026 and the Wildcats went on to end their season in a first-round NIT loss.

Things are different now. Arizona will host UCLA on Saturday for the first top-5 matchup in the Pac-12 in nine years, with all sorts of NCAA Tournament, Pac-12 and even NBA Draft implications on the line.

This time, \u201cGameDay\u201d will be about the game as much as anything.

\u201cYou don\u2019t see this very often,\u201d ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said Friday at McKale Center. \u201cEvery once in a while with a Duke-Carolina game, you\u2019ll get a top-5, top-10 matchup but it\u2019s not as often as you\u2019d think. So to get 4 versus 5, and both teams come in off of wins Thursday night, it\u2019s rare. You just don\u2019t see it that often.

\u201cAnd, look, it isn\u2019t close. This is the game of the day, the game of the weekend. Everybody wants to see it. It\u2019s going to be an amazing atmosphere. This is a bucket-list game. If we weren\u2019t coming here and they asked us which one you\u2019d want to see, this is the one I\u2019d want to see.\u201d

There\u2019s a long list of reasons why it\u2019s Arizona\u2019s biggest home game of the year, if not biggest overall. Here are five of them:

1. The Pac-12 title. Unless Stanford upsets Oregon on Saturday afternoon at Maples Pavilion, the Wildcats won\u2019t be able to celebrate another outright Pac-12 title by jogging MoMo Jones-style into the Zona Zoo if they beat UCLA.

That\u2019s because even at 15-1 in conference play, the Wildcats\u2019 margin of error is thin, since Oregon is a game behind Arizona but is expected to win its final two games (at Stanford and at Oregon State), and holds the tiebreaker with the Wildcats based on its 85-58 win over UA on Feb. 4 in Eugene.

So if the Wildcats stumble today against UCLA or next Saturday at ASU, they could be in the No. 2 slot in the Pac-12 Tournament \u2014 which means a possible matchup with UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals instead of one against potential No. 4 seeds USC or Cal.

The UA has won three previous outright Pac-12 titles under coach Sean Miller, in 2011 (with four losses), 2014 (three losses) and 2015 (two losses).

2. NCAA Tournament implications. Lost in the hype over Saturday\u2019s top-5 matchup is the fact that, as of now, sixth-ranked Oregon actually has the edge over Arizona and UCLA in the NCAA selection committee\u2019s eyes for the best tournament placement out of the Pac-12.

The committee made that clear during its Feb. 11 partial bracket reveal, putting Oregon in the West Region and the UA in the Midwest, a fate that means the difference between potentially facing Gonzaga at San Jose or Kansas in Kansas City.

According to ESPN\u2019s Jay Williams, who also spoke at McKale Center on Friday, placement in the NCAA Tournament is a big deal, along with the fact that Gonzaga could be vulnerable because it hasn\u2019t been challenged much lately.

\u201cAs of right now, it looks like the Zags aren\u2019t going to lose a game, so they\u2019re probably going to get the No. 1 seed out West,\u201d Williams said. \u201cBut who\u2019s going to get that two seed out West? And that can make all the difference in your run.

\u201cIf I\u2019m one of these three teams that\u2019s in contention for the No. 2 seed in the West, I want that two seed. I want to play in my backyard. There\u2019s a difference when you play in the NCAA Tournament and you feel like you\u2019re playing a home game.\u201d

Since both Oregon and Arizona have won all their games since the committee\u2019s reveal, the order likely hasn\u2019t changed. So far at least.

\u201cAs of right now, I have Arizona in that spot,\u201d Williams said. \u201cBut obviously I would say this is going to be fluid movement and a lot depends on what happens here (Saturday) and in the Pac-12 Tournament. But if you\u2019re an Arizona fan, I think you feel somewhat comfortable in that your destiny is in your hands.\u201d

3. NBA Draft order. Draft Express projects four players in Saturday\u2019s game will be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft: UCLA\u2019s Lonzo Ball (2 in the 2017 draft), T.J. Leaf (23 in 2017) and Ike Anigbogu (13 in 2018) plus UA\u2019s Lauri Markkanen (7 in 2017).

No doubt projected second-rounders such as Kobi Simmons (47 in 2017), Allonzo Trier (51 in 2017) and Rawle Alkins (42 in 2018) could be aiming to prove they\u2019re worthy of a higher pick, too.

Trier, who opened his season when the Wildcats played at UCLA last month because of a 19-game PED suspension, is just now getting on a roll. He has made 8 of 11 3-point shots over his past two games, after making just 10 of 33 in his first eight games.

\u201cI think every game allows me to be more comfortable,\u201d Trier said. \u201cWhen you think about it, this late in the season, you\u2019re starting to hit your peak and play your best basketball and I\u2019m still a little early compared to everybody else.\u201d

The Markkanen-Leaf matchup is particularly compelling since both are big stretch fours who committed to Arizona (Leaf decommitted and Arizona landed Markkanen less than three months later).

While Leaf has played better lately than Markkanen, Williams said Markkanen\u2019s skill set is better and that Leaf has benefited from playing with Ball.

\u201cWhen you have Lonzo Ball on your team, that makes a heck of a lot of difference in how your bigs look,\u201d Williams said. \u201cSo much of being a guard is putting your players into positions to succeed and \u2014 I\u2019m not saying T.J. Leaf isn\u2019t a really good player \u2014 but when you play with a guard of his caliber, he can make T.J. Leaf a potential lottery pick.\u201d

4. It\u2019s about \u2026 defense? While UCLA is known for having the nation\u2019s most turbocharged offense, and the Wildcats dropped 90 points on USC Thursday, it may be worth noting that the UA beat UCLA 96-85 last month in part by holding the Bruins to just 32.3 percent 3-point shooting and outrebounding them 42-33 (collecting 12 offensive rebounds to UCLA\u2019s 10).

The UA has the third-best defensive efficiency in Pac-12 play, and leads in 3-point field goal percentage defense in conference games (31.3). But the Wildcats have had a tendency to get beat off the dribble and have been vulnerable inside at times, no more so than on Thursday against USC \u2014 when the Trojans shot 52.9 percent overall and made 61.1 percent of their two-pointers.

\u201cUCLA blends a lot of the characteristics of a team I think can win the national championship,\u201d Miller said after the USC game. \u201cFor us, it has to be defense and offense but clearly our defense has to be at its best to slow them down because it\u2019s very difficult to do that.\u201d

What could make the rematch more difficult for the UA is that UCLA has actually been playing better defense since losing to the Wildcats and USC last month, mixing in some zone defense that UCLA coach Steve Alford says keeps his guys more engaged.

The gap now may be narrower on the defensive end.

\u201cUCLA is more powerful on the offensive end, but they\u2019re not the defensive team that Arizona has proven to be,\u201d Bilas said. \u201cThat\u2019s really the one difference in the two teams, that Arizona consistently defends at a really high level and UCLA has not done that throughout the course of the year, but they\u2019ve done it much better over the last five or six games.\u201d

5. It\u2019s the best game on Arizona\u2019s home schedule. UA season ticket holders took a beating this season, getting a home nonconference slate that included nobody but a mediocre New Mexico team and, thanks to the Pac-12\u2019s unbalanced schedule, there wasn\u2019t even a home game with Oregon.

That left UCLA as the best home game and, really, the only game the UA has hosted all season against a ranked opponent.

What\u2019s more, it\u2019s Senior Day or, in other words, Kadeem Allen Day, since he\u2019s the Wildcats\u2019 only senior player or manager left on the team (the team\u2019s only senior manager, TJ Dorado, graduated in December).

So even though UCLA has avenged two of its three losses \u2014 beating USC and Oregon this month at Pauley Pavilion \u2014 Alford says it won\u2019t be easy to make up for Arizona\u2019s 96-85 win at Pauley last month.

\u201cThere\u2019s confidence (from beating Oregon and USC), but when it\u2019s \u2018GameDay,\u2019 it\u2019s a national scene,\u201d Alford said after UCLA beat ASU on Thursday. \u201cNow we get \u2018GameDay\u2019 and senior night. We get the whole deal from Arizona.\u201d

So does ESPN.

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From the moment he arrived at Arizona last year, coaches marveled at tailback J.J. Taylor\u2019s maturity. Never did it shine brighter than during his darkest moment.

In his second game as Arizona\u2019s featured back \u2013 a second consecutive performance in which Taylor looked like a budding star \u2014 he suffered a season-ending broken ankle.

Was the freshman from Corona, California, upset about it? Of course. Just as his season was getting started, it quickly came to a painful conclusion.

But Taylor didn\u2019t let it linger. He spoke to family members and other confidantes who assured him he could put a positive spin on his predicament.

Eight games remained in Arizona\u2019s 2016 season. He would use that time to get a head start on 2017 in the weight room and playbook.

\u201cIt was disappointing while the game was going on,\u201d Taylor said of that Sept. 24 game against Washington at Arizona Stadium.

\u201cBut afterwards, after talking to my parents and talking to other people, they gave me words of wisdom. \u2026 Everything happens for a reason.\u201d

Although he\u2019s being eased back into practice this spring, Taylor appears to have added muscle to his 5-foot-6, 170-pound frame. Although Taylor says he\u2019s only about 80 percent of his usual self, running backs coach Calvin Magee says Taylor looks quicker than before his injury.

No time is a good time to break a bone, but the timing of Taylor\u2019s injury was especially cruel. He had rushed for 168 yards the previous week against Hawaii, displaying moves straight out of \u201cMadden.\u201d He had 97 yards in about three quarters against Washington, which eventually reached the College Football Playoff.

\u201cIt was devastating,\u201d Magee said. \u201cJ.J. was bringing energy and a different style coming out of the backfield. He was just starting to learn more. I think he would have gotten even better.\u201d

He still has time. Arizona has every reason to believe Taylor will be a prominent part of the backfield next season, along with freshman Nathan Tilford, senior Zach Green and an also on-the-mend Nick Wilson.

As Taylor put it: \u201cI don\u2019t like to think that there\u2019s anything I can\u2019t do.\u201d

Taylor isn\u2019t doing as much on the field right now, but he\u2019s doing more off it. Taylor is serving as a mentor to Tilford, another veteran move by a student-athlete who\u2019s still in his first year of college.

\u201cAfter practice, he\u2019ll come to my room and ask me questions,\u201d Taylor said. \u201cI\u2019ll instruct him, just like Nick or Zach would have done for me last year.\u201d

New receivers coach

Arizona is set to name Theron Aych as its wide receivers coach, a move that should become official in the coming days.

Aych spent last season at UTEP, which Arizona is scheduled to visit Sept. 16. He spent the previous five seasons as the offensive coordinator at Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas.

In 2015, Aych\u2019s final season at Angelo State, the Rams led Division II in total offense.

Aych\u2019s r\u00e9sum\u00e9 suggests he has ties in Texas, a state that has been relatively under-recruited under Rich Rodriguez.

Aych also has ties to the Pac-12, having served as a graduate assistant at Washington for two seasons (2003-04).

Aych replaces Tony Dews, who left Arizona last month to join the staff at West Virginia.

The addition of Aych leaves one unfilled on-field opening on the UA staff. Rodriguez said Friday that his plan is to hire a full-time special teams coach, and he expects that to be done within the next two weeks.

Extra points

\u2022Rodriguez said Tilford is among the players who have looked better in pads than shorts.

\u2022Rodriguez said Taylor and Wilson took some \u201cquality reps\u201d Friday after being held back in previous practices. \u201cI like where we\u2019re at at tailback,\u201d Rodriguez said.

\u2022Asked about the team\u2019s cornerback play last year, Rodriguez said: \u201cNot very good. That\u2019s putting it mildly.\u201d He said the corners as a whole need to get bigger, stronger and more consistent.

Rodriguez conceded that last season\u2019s regulars, Dane Cruikshank and Jace Whittaker, had little Division I experience. He expects that group to improve in 2017.

\u2022Cornerback Sammy Morrison revealed that he suffered a partially torn ACL in spring last year and then tore a hamstring on the first day of training camp, forcing him to redshirt. Fellow corner Lorenzo Burns ended up redshirting after suffering a sprained MCL in Week 2 against Grambling State. Both players are healthy now.

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The Arizona Wildcats are set to name Theron Aych as their wide receivers coach, a move that should become official in the coming days.

Aych spent last season at UTEP, which Arizona is scheduled to visit on Sept. 16. He spent the previous five seasons as the offensive coordinator at Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas.

Aych\u2019s r\u00e9sum\u00e9 suggests he has ties in Texas, a state that has been relatively under-recruited under Rich Rodriguez. Aych said in this video that he recruited the Houston area for Angelo State.

In 2015, Aych\u2019s final season at Angelo State, the Rams led Division II in total offense.

Aych also has ties to the Pac-12, having served as a graduate assistant at Washington for two seasons (2003-04).

Aych played wide receiver at Northern State in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in the early 1990s.

Aych replaces Tony Dews, who left Arizona to join the staff at West Virginia last month.

The addition of Aych leaves one unfilled on-field opening on the UA staff. Rodriguez likely will fill that slot with a full-time special-teams coach.

WildcatAuthority.com first reported Aych\u2019s hiring. He has updated his Twitter bio to reflect his new job.

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