Arizona basketball at home in Southland - prosperous pipeline's source

With a big fan base in the Southland, Arizona has had tourney success
2013-03-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:09:23Z Arizona basketball at home in Southland - prosperous pipeline's sourcePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - When Grant Jerrett talks about going home to Los Angeles, Solomon Hill playfully rolls his eyes.

Jerrett, the UA's freshman forward, is from Chino Hills, about 33 miles east of the City of Angels.

It's close, sure, but nowhere near Hill's hometown, mere miles from Staples Center, the home of today's Sweet 16 matchup against Ohio State.

Especially with traffic.

Neither was Derrick Williams' hometown of La Mirada, 19 miles southeast of downtown L.A.

Hill teased the conference player of the year in 2011, too.

"I give those guys some passes," he said.

Only on the Arizona Wildcats is L.A. residency a matter of perspective.

Since the UA joined the Pac-12 in 1978, more than one-quarter of its basketball players have called the Southland - the five-county region in and surrounding Los Angeles - home.

The Southland has been the Arizona Wildcats' sweet spot for a generation, and not just because the area produced Steve Kerr, Miles Simon and an all-star team full of alumni.

Or because it incubated Lute Olson, who coached at Long Beach City College and at Long Beach State.

The area has been home to some of the Wildcats' great moments.

The UA is 5-1 in NCAA tournament games in Los Angeles proper.

Today marks the fifth Sweet 16 the Wildcats have played somewhere in the Southland. The Wildcats are 4-0 in those games.

In 1994, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the UA spanked Missouri to reach the Final Four.

Two years ago, a red-clad throng at Honda Center in Anaheim watched Williams' Wildcats stun Duke in the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut in the Elite Eight.

Today against the Buckeyes, the Wildcats will try to make more history in their familiar home.

"This is great," said junior guard Jordin Mayes, a Los Angeles native. "We've got a lot of guys from California, the L.A. area. It's a great feeling to be able to go back home. Also, it's a great event for our fans to go to. …

"We have a great fan base in L.A., playing in front of our friends and family and the fans coming out, traveling.

"L.A. is a good site, so it's a great place to have our fans there, cheering for us."

Hill is ready.

"I think when we played in Anaheim, it was a great feeling," he said. "It felt like McKale, and hopefully we can do the same thing in L.A."

Here's a look at the school's L.A. story:

It's home

Six of the UA's 16 players hail from the Southland: Hill, Mayes and Jacob Hazzard (Los Angeles); Jerrett (Chino Hills); Drew Mellon (Santa Ana); and Gabe York (Orange).

That's more than UCLA and USC, who claim five Southland players apiece.

"Most of our kids on the team are from L.A., or from California," York said. "I think it does help seeing how many kids come here from L.A.

"And they like it."

The Wildcats' Southland pipeline "is only going to keep growing," Hill said.

"I think they're starting to establish, especially with my guys - Grant, Gabe - able to reach back out to guys we played with in high school," he said.

It's history

One hundred and seventy-eight players have suited up for the Wildcats since they joined the conference in 1978.

Fifty - a stunning 28 percent - have come from the Southland.

Were the Southland its own state, it would lead all others on the UA's list of players by state by almost double. The state of Arizona is next, at 27 players.

Here's a look at how that list would look:

The Southland: 50

Arizona: 27

Rest of California: 17

Illinois: 13

Texas: 11

Indiana: 6

No other state claims more than four.

All Stars

From (Hassan) Adams to (Andrew) Zahn, we pored over a list of Southland players and assembled the Wildcats' all-star teams.

The starters:

• G Steve Kerr (1983-88; hometown: Pacific Palisades) - Shot a record 57.3 percent from three-point range to lead the UA to the 1988 Final Four.

• G Miles Simon (1994-98; hometown: Fullerton) - The 1997 Most Outstanding Player helped the Cats win the NCAA title.

• F Derrick Williams (2009-11; hometown: La Mirada) - The Pac-10 Player of the Year led the UA to 2011 Elite Eight and was picked second in the NBA Draft.

• F Chris Mills (1990-93; hometown: Los Angeles) - Averaged 20.4 points and 7.6 rebounds en route to being named 1993 conference player of the year.

• C Sean Rooks (1988-92; hometown: Fullerton) - Averaged 16.3 points and 6.9 rebounds as a senior

Off the bench:

• G Reggie Geary (1992-96; hometown: Santa Ana) - Won 82 percent of his games at the UA and went to the 1994 Final Four.

• G Gilbert Arenas (1999-2001; hometown: North Hollywood) - In leading UA to the 2001 national title game, he averaged 16 points per game in the postseason and was named the regional Most Outstanding Player.

• F Tom Tolbert (1986-88; hometown: Lakewood) - Averaged 14 points and six rebounds in two years at the UA.

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Arizona 16 2 0 0.889 34 4 0 0.895
Utah 13 5 0 0.722 26 9 0 0.743
Oregon 12 5 0 0.706 25 10 0 0.714
UCLA 11 7 0 0.611 22 14 0 0.611
Arizona State 9 9 0 0.500 19 16 0 0.543
Stanford 9 9 0 0.500 24 13 0 0.649
Oregon State 8 10 0 0.444 16 14 0 0.533
Colorado 7 10 0 0.412 16 16 0 0.500
Washington State 7 11 0 0.389 13 18 0 0.419
California 6 11 0 0.353 17 15 0 0.531
Washington 5 13 0 0.278 16 15 0 0.516
USC 3 14 0 0.176 12 19 0 0.387
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