UA HOOPS

Arizona Basketball: Emotional pull gave UA edge on walk-ons

2013-05-23T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:38:07Z Arizona Basketball: Emotional pull gave UA edge on walk-onsBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Scottsdale's Eric Conklin took a recruiting visit to Arizona earlier this spring, meeting with academic advisors and checking out facilities, it all turned out to be somewhat unnecessary.

Who was he kidding?

The chance to be part of the program he grew up watching, one that perennially challenges for Pac-12 titles and makes NCAA tournament runs, and possibly pursue a family tradition of becoming an orthopedic surgeon?

For Conklin, all that easily trumped the fact that he wasn't offered a scholarship and will likely see most of his playing time confined to a closed practice gym.

"It was an experience and an opportunity I couldn't resist," said Conklin, a 6-foot-7-inch forward at Chaparral High School. "When they gave me the opportunity to play basketball, it was hard to turn down.

"I was a huge Wildcat fan in the late Lute Olson days, watching all the teams go through the tournament and all that."

The Wildcats needed even less of a sales pitch to land their other invited walk-on this spring, Los Angeles Loyola shooting guard Trey Mason, even though both players had potential to land scholarships at other schools.

While Conklin's mother attended Arizona, Mason will represent a fourth generation of family members attending UA. His father also happens to be none other than Harvey Mason Jr., who played for the Wildcats during the initial rise of the program under Olson.

So when 20 or 30 schools showed interested in Mason, with Portland and Santa Clara telling him he might have a chance to work his way into a scholarship, Arizona still came out ahead.

Way ahead.

"I've been really close to program," Mason said. "I was definitely looking at other schools, but they were always around."

Mason said he was particularly close with former UA associate head coach James Whitford, who left to become the head coach at Ball State, and has already come to know new UA assistant coach Damon Stoudamire.

Harvey Mason Jr., also kept in regular touch with Sean Miller's staff, Trey Mason said, and became a recruiter of sorts.

"He tells me the stories all the time," Trey Mason said. "He tells me all the stories about how Coach Olson really brought Arizona back … (about) the friendships they built and how close they were. It's not as common now that they all stick around, but those teams developed a really good relationship with Coach Olson."

While Harvey Mason Jr. went on to a prominent songwriting and music production career after leaving Arizona, Trey said the game remains his father's "first love." The two even play one-on-one frequently, though Trey said he began beating his father before his junior season in high school.

Unlike his father and both paternal grandparents, however, Trey Mason said he isn't likely to stray into the music business after college.

"I love music - it's my favorite thing besides basketball," Trey said. "But I don't have the musical talent. I can't play anything. I've tried it all, but I can't."

Instead, Mason said he hopes to become a coach or work in the business and management side of sports, figuring his experience under Miller will help.

For Conklin, playing basketball and attending Arizona may also be the path to a professional future. Conklin said he comes from a long line of orthopedic surgeons and is hoping to become another, starting with plans to pursue a premed biology program.

"I know it's going to be a very difficult, hard road, but I'm looking forward to it," Conklin said.

That goes for the basketball, too. Both players are expected to join returning walk-on Drew Mellon on the scout team in practice, mimicking the moves of opposing players the Wildcats will face next.

Mason said coaches have told him that he could grow into a player who challenges for playing time, but both he and Conklin say they understand the scout team is their primary responsibility.

Neither is complaining.

"To go against the best and be the best I can be is one of the major reasons I chose UA," Conklin said. "I'm just excited. Being associated with the team and getting an opportunity to help Wildcat basketball be better off is a dream come true."

On StarNet: Keep up with the Wildcats' basketball team with Bruce Pascoe's blog at azstarnet.com/pascoe

Three going to U19 training camp

Sophomore forward Brandon Ashley will get an early look at incoming Arizona Wildcats teammates Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the training camp next month for USA Basketball's U19 World Championships team.

USA Basketball invited 24 players to try out for a 12-player team that will compete in the U19 World Championships in Prague from June 27 to July 7.

UA recruiting targets Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor were also invited to the camp, while Washington's Nigel Williams-Goss, Oregon's Damyean Dotson and UCLA's Bryce Alford were the other Pac-12 players invited.

The team will be coached by Florida's Billy Donovan.

The U19 training camp will open June 14 in Colorado Springs, Colo., and continue through June 19. The finalists will then spend three days in Washington, D.C, before departing for Prague.

All UA players are expected to be in Tucson for the second summer session, which runs July 8-Aug. 7.

Bruce Pascoe

Contact Bruce Pascoe at 573-4145 or bpascoe@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @brucepascoe

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 2 0 0 1.000
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 2 0 0 1.000
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
California 0 0 0 0.000 3 1 0 0.750
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 2 1 0 0.667
USC 0 0 0 0.000 2 2 0 0.500
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 1 2 0 0.333

AP Top 25


Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Drexel at
USC
11/21 70-72
UNLV at
Stanford
11/21 60-89
Toledo at
Oregon
11/21 68-78
UC Riverside at
Utah
11/21 42-88
Colorado at
Wyoming
11/22 4:00 pm
Long Beach State at
UCLA
11/23 8:00 pm
Missouri at
Arizona
11/24 3:00 pm
@Arizona State, @Maryland 11/24 5:00 pm
@Oklahoma State, @Oregon State 11/24 6:30 pm
@Michigan, @Oregon 11/24 7:30 pm
Delaware at
Stanford
11/25 9:00 pm
Cal State-Fullerton at
USC
11/25 9:00 pm
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