Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Silent star Cotton ranks behind only Elliott among Tucsonans in NCAA D-I scoring

March 09, 2014 12:05 am

In this week's edition (from the road in Oregon), Star sports columnist Greg Hansen dishes on the marvelous feats of former Palo Verde star Bryce Cotton, the disappearance of refs involved in last year's scandal, Russ Pennell going home to Arkansas and the brilliance of Sean Miller recruiting 7-foot Serbian Dusan Ristic.

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  • After his senior season at Palo Verde High School, Bryce Cotton was given the twice-over by basketball coaches from Chico State, South Carolina-Upstate, UC-Santa Barbara and Indiana State.

    They all declined to offer him a scholarship.

    He finally decided he would choose from between Miami Dade Junior College or Pima College.

    Call it The Big Miss. Or The Big Misses. Cotton, a 6-foot-1-inch combo guard, signed with Providence four days before school started in 2010.

    Last week, Fox Sports 1 broadcast a 10-minute special about Cotton’s career as a Providence Friar. Entering Saturday’s night game against Creighton, Cotton had scored 1,863 points. He passed Providence legends Ernie DiGregorioLenny Wilkens and Billy Donovan.

    On Senior Day last week in Rhode Island, Cotton was moved to tears when his mother, Yvonne and brother Justin Tarpley joined him on the court. As hard as it would have been to believe in the fall of 2010, Cotton will leave school as one of the greatest Friars ever, joining Eric MurdockJimmy WalkerMarvin Barnes, DiGregorio, Wilkens and Donovan.

    Not only that, he leads the NCAA in minutes played, an incredible 40.2 per game, and has earned the nickname “Marathon Man” for three times playing all 50 minutes of double-overtime games this year.

    So we ask: Where does Cotton rank in Tucson history? Only nine Tucsonans have scored 1,000 points in a Division I college career:

    PlayerHigh schoolCollegeCollege points
    Sean ElliottChollaArizona2555
    Bryce CottonPalo VerdeProvidence1863
    Dave FeitlSanta RitaTexas-El Paso1442
    Justin DeBerrySalpointeLafayette1378
    Ernie McCrayTucsonArizona1349
    Fat LeverPuebloASU1137
    Sean FlannerySalpointeSan Diego1101
    Terrell StoglinSanta RitaMaryland1072
    Roger JohnsonTucsonArizona1046

    If the Friars go deep enough into the postseason, Cotton could join the 2,000-point club, which is about as exclusive as it gets in college basketball.

    In the summer of 2010, Cotton flew to California on an official recruiting visit to Chico State. The Wildcats sent him home without an offer.

    This year, Chico State has lost to Cal State-Monterey Bay and Cal Poly Pomona. Talk about letting one get away.

  • In the year since Sean Miller was assessed a bogus technical foul in the Pac-12 tournament semifinal against UCLA, the league’s officiating machinery has been modified.

    The ref who called Miller’s only technical foul of the 2012-13 season, Michael Irving, has not called an Arizona game this season; he worked six UA games a year ago. Irving has gone from a league-high 20 conference games last year to 10 this season. Miller has not been called for a technical this season.

    League commissioner Larry Scott accepted the resignation of officials’ czar Ed Rush after the so-called Bountygate; he was replaced by long-time WAC and Mountain West ref coordinator Bobby Dibler. 

    Most of the recognizable officiating faces have remained the same: Verne HarrisRandy McCallMike ScyphersDave Hall and Michael Reed have worked the most conference games this season, a combined 74 through Friday.

    Dibler’s work will be under scrutiny in Las Vegas. Rush was unable to keep the league’s top officials for the 2013 Pac-12 title game; second-tier refs Tony PadillaMichael Greenstein and Greg Nixon called last year’s UCLA-Oregon title game.

    This year, Dibler has cut Padilla’s workload from 20 to 10 games; Nixon has gone from 17 to 10.

    My only prediction for the tourney: If Scott formally presents the league’s regular-season title trophy to UA, it’ll be accepted by AD Greg Byrne and not by Miller.

  • Arizona predictably sold its official allotment of 1,783 MGM Grand Garden Arena seats for the Pac-12 tournament, which is about 10 percent of the arena’s capacity. But that’s misleading; getting a ticket to a Pac-12 tournament game in Las Vegas is as easy as placing a bet. Ultimately, Utah is likely to rival Arizona for fan support in Vegas, but until then, or until UCLA or Arizona State travel in force, the tournament’s feel and atmosphere will swing on Arizona fans obtaining tickets in the secondary market.

  • Sean Elliott will be at his first Pac-12 tournament since Arizona won it with him in 1989. He will be Fox Sports 1’s analyst for night games Thursday and Friday and for Saturday’s championship game. 

  • Pac-12 Arizona tonight will air a “One on One” special on Lute Olson that begins at 8 p.m. Olson will be interviewed by his former nemesis, UCLA’s Don MacLean

  • Arizona’s 2009 Sweet 16 interim head coach, Russ Pennell, is going home. After being wrongly terminated at Grand Canyon, the victim of a power play by Jerry Colangelo and Dan Majerle, Pennell last week became head coach at his alma mater, Central Arkansas. Pennell, who is from Kansas, remains the career assists leader at UCA; he also met his wife, Julie, while a student in Conway, Ark. 

  • I’ll forever think Dick Tomey was as accomplished (or more) than former Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti. But it was Bellotti who last week was placed on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot. Bellotti won 137 games at Oregon, dealing from power via Nike’s bankroll. Tomey won 183 games at Hawaii, Arizona and San Jose State, where it was always a grind. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame insists a coach have a 60 percent career winning percentage to be nominated; Bellotti was at .630; Tomey at .557.

  • Arizona senior Lawi Lalang will attempt to run into the NCAA history books Friday and Saturday at the NCAA Indoor championships. He will be the favorite to win the 5,000 meter title Friday and then double in the mile and 3,000-meter finals Saturday. In the history of NCAA Indoor track, 10 distance runners have won two events in the meet, including Tucsonan Bernard Lagat at Washington State, and legends Jim Ryun of Kansas and Marty Liquori of Villanova. Lalang already belongs to the ages, in a sense. He won the mile and 3,000 meter a year ago, and the 3K and 5K a year earlier. Should he win all three, he would surpass UTEP’s Suleiman Nyambui, 1979-82, who has seven indoor championships, and become the most prolific indoor track and field athlete in NCAA history, with eight titles.

  • Salpointe Catholic linebacker Taylor Powell, Lancers lineman Justin Holt, Cienega QB Adriell Alvardo and Tucson High halfback Bryce Coleman will be at the Nike Football Training Camp combine today in Los Angeles, an invitation-only event that is similar to the NFL Combine in that it measures high school prospects in athletic prowess. All appear destined for FBS scholarship offers. 

  • Mike Feder’s hiring by the Arizona Diamondbacks was a no-brainer among no-brainers. The D-backs had virtually no presence in the Southern Arizona market after abandoning Tucson as a spring training site. Now Feder will develop a spring training game or two, be active in community outreach and marketing on behalf of the D’backs. It won’t be easy; I suspect the D’backs are the least favorite team of a big share of those Tucsonans who follow MLB.

  • UA athletic director Greg Byrne didn’t hire women’s basketball coach Niya Butts, but he did extend her contract through 2016, at $220,000 per year. Butts is thus owed $440,000 or close to it, after the Wildcats completed a 1-17 conference season and 5-25 regular season. In spite of all the setbacks, Butts is well-liked inside McKale Center and I think Byrne will give her another season. Coaching women’s basketball isn’t as predictable as the men’s game. A year after Butts was hired, at age 30, Oregon State’s women’s program fell apart in the off-season. Its coach was fired and only four players remained in the program. OSU, with no budget to hire a name coach, tabbed nearby George Fox College coach Scott Rueck, who opened 2-16 in the league. This year, the Beavers, on a 10-game win streak, were 13-5 and 22-9 overall through Friday. Better yet, they drew 9,839 in the year’s final homestand, against Arizona and ASU. Where do you find a Scott Rueck when you need one?

  • It was good to see Don Dickinson at center court, McKale Center, before Senior Day against Stanford. Dickinson, who for 20 years was one of the state’s most successful tennis coaches and tournament operators, was chosen as the Channel 13 high school Teacher of the Year. Dickinson is a history/sociology teacher at Ironwood Ridge, where over the last few years he found time to coach the IRHS girls basketball team to the state semifinals, and coach tennis player John Nanosky to the state championship. It was a well-deserved honor for Dickinson. 

  • Among American cities that don’t have a Major League Soccer franchise, Scarborough Sports Marketing research lists Tucson as the 11th metro area that is “very interested’’ or “somewhat interested’’ in MLS. El Paso is eighth and Bakersfield, Calif., is 10th. Hmmm. Wouldn’t a Pacific Coast League-type pro soccer league, involving those cities, and perhaps Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Fresno be a natural someday soon?

  • Amphi’s 2012 state basketball Player of the Year Tim Derksen is one of the survivors for the San Francisco Dons. In the last year, 11 players have left the USF program. Derksen was involved in November fight in practice, after which the player he fought, Cody Doolin, left the team. Somehow, the Dons finished the regular season 21-10, have won six straight and are third in the WCC. Derksen has scored 79 points in his last eight games, including 15 on 5-of-6 shooting Saturday in a win over San Diego.

  • When 7-foot Serbian Dusan Ristic on Saturday announced he plans to enroll at Arizona and play for the Wildcats next season, it was a rare piece of recruiting news in March.

    February and March are normally basketball-centric, the only two months of the year when a coach like Sean Miller can focus solely on coaching. Friday at his team’s Oregon hotel, speaking generically about recruiting, Miller said that “last weekend was a huge weekend for us. We had a number of kids on campus in our last home weekend.”

    Recruiting has changed, Miller said. “The reason for it being constant is that players leave earlier. Ten years ago, you might have a recruiting class of five, and that would almost cement your future. You really couldn’t add to that if you wanted to.”

    But all of that has changed. At a time it’s possible Arizona could lose four underclassmen from its 2014 Pac-12 title team, Ristic could avoid a personnel crisis if Kaleb Tarczewski or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson left. Ristic, who grew up playing against Serbian and EuroLeague pros, will be a freshman on paper, but not in approach and bearing.

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