Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Arizona has won Pac-12 many ways, but this one would be sweet

March 02, 2014 12:05 am

This week, Greg Hansen dishes on Arizona's 13th Pac-12/10 regular-season conference title, Shakir Smith's monster game for Pima, the Pac-12's scheduling insanity taking four class days from the Sun Devils and the addition to the UA men's swim team that could push them to an NCAA title.

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  • Arizona has clinched the Pac-12 basketball championship in every conceivable scenario: as early as Valentine’s Day (1988) and as late as March 12 (1994).

    It clinched the league title while losing (1991) at Oregon, and it clinched the championship in a head-to-head showdown at Stanford (2003).

    But nothing beats winning the title outright and cutting down the nets at home on Senior Day, as is today’s possible scenario against Stanford.

    Arizona has clinched the Pac-12 basketball championship at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, Wazzu’s Friel Court; Oregon’s old Mac Court; Stanford’s Maples Pavilion; and twice at ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena.

    Six of the 12 titles were made official at McKale Center: 1988, 1990, 1993, 1998, 2000 and 2011.

    Arizona twice tied for the championship (1990 and 2000), although it owned the 2000 tiebreaker by sweeping Stanford. In the 1990 regular-season finale, Oregon State arrived at McKale Center 15-2 against Arizona’s 14-3.

    Gary Payton mailed it in that day, claiming the Beavers had “taken care of business’’ by winning at ASU two days earlier. Arizona routed OSU 87-60 to tie for the title and didn’t even bother cutting down the nets.

    That was then, when the Wildcats were in a streak of seven championships in nine years. It was almost a secondary goal.

    But now, 24 years later, cutting down the nets is a much anticipated and savored activity.

    The two most memorable title-clinchers were the first, 1986 at Pauley Pavilion, and the last, 2011 at McKale. In ’86, UCLA’s Reggie Miller was quoted as saying Arizona “had no chance’’ to clinch on the Bruins’ court. Arizona won 88-76.

    In 2011, after beating Oregon 90-82 at McKale, UA guard MoMo Jones led the Wildcats on an impromptu tour of the Zona Zoo, unprecedented in school history, while Aerosmith’s “Dream On’’ served as background music.

    That was one of the most electric days in the long history of McKale Center. The chance to add to that legacy makes tonight’s game one of Arizona’s most fetching home games in 36 years of Pac-12 hoops.

  • The most points ever scored in a Tucson basketball game — high school, junior college or at the UA — was a 57-point outburst by Canyon del Oro guard Anthony Lever Pedroza on Jan. 24, 1997.

    There have been challenges: Pueblo’s Aaron “Smiley’’ Contreras scored 54 in 2001; Salpointe’s George Walls had 53 in 1971; CDO’s Mark Jung had 53 in 1978; and Pima College’s Horacio Llamas had 52 in 1994.

    On Wednesday, PCC guard Shakir Smith scored 54 in an ACCAC playoff game against Phoenix College.

    “The last time I saw shooting performance like that was when Will Porter scored 48 for us when I coached at Salpointe in 1996,’’ Pima coach Brian Peabody said. “Shakir made 10 three-pointers, and I swear he had another four or five that bounced in and out.”

    Smith, a Tucson High grad who began his college career at Wyoming, is now under a recruiting microscope. He won’t be able to make a decision on his next school until he earns a degree at PCC this summer.

    “I coached (Palo Verde grad) Bryce Cotton, and I tell the college recruiters that Shakir, no question, is a better shooter than Bryce,” said Peabody. Cotton, a senior at Providence, led the Big East in scoring through Friday with a 21.6 average.

    “Shakir’s a gym rat, a good kid,” said Peabody. “One of the recruiting gurus last week wrote he could play for Kansas. I’m not going to say that, but I will say that wherever he goes, he’s got a chance to be a standout.”

    As for Lever Pedroza, he is living in Phoenix and self-employed. He also works for Univision, which broadcasts NBA games in Spanish, and is training for the Mexican national team as it prepares for the 2014 World Championships.

  • Arizona junior shortstop Kellie Fox hit nine home runs in February, which had only been accomplished once by Mike Candrea’s many UA power hitters. In 1995, Laura Espinoza hit nine homers in February in 50 at-bats. Fox, a transfer from UCLA, had 48 at-bats in February. Espinoza went on to hit a school-record 37 homers that season. Stacie Chambers hit her ninth round-tripper of 2009 on March 1. Fox showed significant power as a UCLA freshman in 2011, hitting 11. 

  • Former Santa Rita state championship basketball point guard Terrell Stoglin left the European Basketball League last week because of the political crisis in Ukraine. Stoglin, who had joined Azovmash of Ukraine last month after leaving the French pro league, was released from his contract, as were three other American players. 

  • Amphi state championship point guard Lester Medford is playing for the NJCAA’s top-ranked team, Indian Hills (Iowa) College, which was 29-2 through Thursday. Medford, who has signed to play at Baylor next year, is averaging 14.3 points. 

  • Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s $3 billion TV deal came with a price that will be paid by Arizona State’s Herb Sendek this week. The Sun Devils are scheduled to play a rare Tuesday night game at Oregon, for Fox Sports1, then kill time in Corvallis until a Saturday afternoon game at Oregon State. Missed class time? Hello?

  • Incoming UA basketball recruit Stanley Johnson scored a career-high 42 points Friday night for 29-0 Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High School. Good news in a UA context: Johnson is shooting .792 from the foul line this year.

  • Arizona’s incoming JC combo guard, Kadeem Allen of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, is No. 2 in the NJCAA in overall scoring at 27.2 points per game. He leads all junior-college players in free-throw attempts at 339, and is shooting .746 from the line.

  • When 7-foot Dusan Ristic of Serbia takes an official recruiting visit to Arizona today, there will be some irony attached. Ristic plays at Sunrise (Kansas) Christian Academy, which is in a suburb of Wichita and on the home turf of the undefeated Wichita Shockers. He is apparently not considering WSU. Ristic might not even be the best player on his team: Point guard Lourawls “Tum Tum’’ Nairn has signed with Michigan State, and forward Keanu Pinder has signed with Nebraska.

  • If UA guard Nick Johnson indeed becomes the Pac-12 Player of the Year, it’ll break a somewhat tedious list of Cal Bears who won the award in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Can you even name those POYs? In 2010, it was guard Jerome Randle, who now plays for Trabzonspor in Turkey. In 2012, it was Jorge Gutierrez, who is playing for the Canton Charge of the NBA D-League, and in 2014, it was Allen Crabbe, who has played a mere 52 minutes for Portland this year. None were first-round NBA draft picks. It’s a mark of how times have changed in Pac-12 hoops. The six ex-Wildcats who were Pac-12 Players of the Year — Sean ElliottChris MillsDamon StoudamireMike BibbyJason Terry and Derrick Williams — were all first-round draftees who went immediately to the NBA and did not require seasoning in Europe or anywhere else.

  • As reported last month, UA donors (not athletics) raised about $330 million from its constituents the last two years, far more than ASU’s reported figure of $207 million. Everyone took a bow and moved on. The money-raising game never ends. In Greg Byrne’s four years at Arizona, the athletic department has raised more than $55 million for football and basketball projects. Given the spotlight on fundraising at Arizona and ASU, I suspect former Arizona associate AD Tom Sanders, who rarely got public mention during the Cedric Dempsey and Jim Livengood days, worked at a Hall-of-Fame level like none other in UA/ASU sports history. Sanders was the point man on money raised for the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center, LaNelle Robson Tennis Center, Fred Enke Plaza, the Button Salmon Memorial, creation of the UA Sports Hall of Fame displays in the McKale Center corridors and concourses, the Hillenbrand Auditorium and Academic/Meeting Center in McKale, Rita Hillenbrand Softball Stadium, new dugouts at Sancet Field, a mountain of memorabilia for what would become the Jim Click Hall of Champions and a pile of money in support of individual sports, via the Sport Interest Group system (now extinct). Sanders continues to work in private fundraising for a Tucson firm. 

  • Phoenix Shadow Mountain sophomore point guard Michael Bibby scored a combined 60 points and was the key figure as his school eliminated Tucson’s top three high school basketball teams in the state playoffs over the last eight days. Cienega, Catalina Foothills and Salpointe Catholic all lost to Bibby’s club, upon which his father, Mike Bibby, is essentially the co-head coach. The younger Bibby’s profile as an elite-level recruit will be determined in AAU summer leagues this year. 

  • France’s Victor Dubuisson left last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship as golf’s version of the Desert Fox. His par-saves from cacti and desert brush in a classic playoff against Jason Day made him a global golf celebrity overnight. Earlier in the week, in a victory over Kevin Streelman, a Dubuisson tee shot veered deep into the desert and hit PGA Tour ShotLink volunteer Peter Morash of Tucson. The ball smashed into the binoculars around Morash’s neck and bounced out of trouble and into the fairway. Dubuisson was unaware of his off-the-binoculars piece of luck. The Desert Fox, indeed.

  • Rich Alday coached Pima College to 496 baseball victories and the New Mexico Lobos to 511, but the 1967 Tucson High grad and 1988 and 1996 USA Baseball Olympics assistant coach didn’t stop there.

    He coached traditional softball power Ironwood Ridge to a pair of victories in last week’s Lion County Classic in Mesa and said his first year as a girls softball coach is “really fun and challenging.’’

    “It’s a little different, but the kids are like sponges, trying to learn, and that keeps me motivated,” he said. “The only real differences from baseball are that you can’t lead off a base and, of course, the pitching mound is almost 20 feet closer. These kids aren’t beginners. I’m really going to have to be on my toes.”

  • After more than six months of bookwork and compliance diligence, the NCAA last week told Arizona swimming coach Rick DeMont that Brad Tandy will be eligible for this week’s Pac-12 championships and upcoming NCAA finals.

    Tandy, who was considered by many the nation’s top recruit in 2013, is from South Africa and a junior-college in Florida. His academic transcripts thus required considerable and lengthy examination (to say the least).

    He immediately becomes a favorite to win the NCAA title in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, and also makes Arizona’s relay teams potential national champs.

    Upon the announcement of Tandy’s eligibility, his UA teammates whooped, hollered, and jumped into the pool to celebrate. The Wildcats know what Tandy’s presence means: Instead of challenging for fourth or fifth place in the NCAA finals, they are now a serious title threat.

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