When a referee approached Solomon Hill last week at USC, that's when the Arizona Wildcats' recent struggles really hit home for the senior forward.
A crowd of only 4,207 had showed up at the Galen Center to watch a costly 89-78 UA loss, and at least half of them were rooting for the Wildcats.
"It's kind of disrespectful the way we're playing when you have the ref come up to me and say, 'You guys have more fans here than they do,'" Hill said. "That's a big reason why I chose Arizona. It's a huge basketball town, and you have huge basketball support."
That fan support, and what Hill called UA's rep as an "NBA factory," was why Hill stayed committed to the Wildcats until the day Lute Olson retired in October 2008 - and why he recommitted after UA hired Sean Miller in April 2009.
For the Wildcats' other scholarship four-year senior, Kevin Parrom, the initial draw wasn't the fans. It was coach Sean Miller, whom the New Yorker committed to at Xavier and then followed to Arizona.
But over time, for reasons both on and off the court, the warm desert environment grew on Parrom to the point where some teammates jokingly call him "T-Loc" - a Tucson local who stays local.
"I really don't go home," Parrom said. "We were fortunate enough to go to New York last season (for the 2K Sports Classic) but everybody knows I don't go home. I'm always going to be a New Yorker, but Tucson has welcomed me since I was a freshman as a second home. It is my home now."
You probably know why Parrom doesn't go home - the well-documented September 2011 shooting that changed his life. After visiting his terminally ill mother in a Bronx hospital, Parrom was shot on the side of his right knee and in his left hand during a late-night incident at his father's Bronx apartment. (Jason Gonzalez of the Bronx is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a charge of attempted murder.)
Parrom went back to New York to stand before a grand jury and identify a suspect in October 2011, then played in the 2K Sports Classic games at Madison Square Garden a month later.
But this season, he can usually be found in Tucson, with roommates Mark Lyons and Quinton Crawford, on the court or in the training room, where he is an intern with basketball trainer Justin Kokoskie this semester.
The shooting, as well as numerous foot injuries over his career and the deaths of his mother and grandmother, changed not only where he is much of the time but also who he is.
"I think I'm stronger," Parrom said. "I've been though a lot of adversity and think I can overcome everything. I use it as a positive to move along in my life."
UA officials are hoping that collective adversity can result in a hardship waiver that would allow Parrom to return for a fifth year next season.
Arizona AD Greg Byrne said Wednesday that the school still plans to file a request for a fifth year after the season ends, though it would have to be considered outside of normal medical hardship rules because Parrom has played in too many games in each of his four seasons to meet standard criteria.
"We think there's special circumstances," Byrne said. "But we don't know what chance he has. We're trying (to get them) to look at his entire career."
But, as much as he's grown to like UA and Tucson, Parrom says he's preparing to leave.
"If I get (the fifth year), that would be wonderful," Parrom said. "But if I don't, I think I've still accomplished a lot. I'm fine either way."
Hill, meanwhile, says he has set up his spring schedule so that he can leave after the season and finish remotely, allowing him to train wherever needed before the June NBA draft, in which he is projected as a second-round pick by Draft Express.
Hill said he has one class on campus, plus some online and independent study work, while he is also interning in UA's media relations office.
"Coaching or announcing, I'm really kind of open to everything," Hill said of his future. "So I guess I thought I should take steps in the right direction that will prepare me for the future."
Still, Hill and Parrom are in no hurry for that future. The Wildcats still have one more remaining regular-season game, then the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, for what they hope is a long ride.
"We have a lot to accomplish," Parrom said. "We're not done yet."
But they may have to pause, at least for a moment, after Saturday's game with ASU, when the seniors and their families will be brought on the court for a Senior Day celebration.
Then, probably for one last time when they are in uniform, the McKale Center fans will give them a standing ovation. Win or lose, the connection will be unmistakable.
"That's one thing about Arizona," Hill said. "You have a family for life."
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Points per game
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New York native was named a winner of 2012 Wilma Rudolph Award for overcoming personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while playing a sport.
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The Los Angeles native joined Sean Elliott as the only other Arizona player to collect 1,200 points, 600 rebounds, 250 assists, 100 treys and 100 steals in a career.
• Who: ASU at No. 18 Arizona • When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday • TV: FSAZ • Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)
Ooh Aah Man to retire after ASU game
Joe Cavaleri, who has been leading cheers as the Arizona Wildcats' Ooh Aah Man since 1979, is retiring.
Cavaleri will perform for the final time at Saturday's rivalry game against Arizona State, then travel to the Pac-12 tournament as a guest of the UA athletic department. Cavaleri will continue to attend basketball games and sit in his usual seats under the basket, athletic director Greg Byrne wrote in his "Wildcat Wednesdays" newsletter.
Cavaleri's career as an unlikely cheerleader began at baseball games, where the bearded superfan led the faithful in chants of "Ooh Aah, Omaha." Lately, Cavaleri has been beset by a handful of health issues, including Parkinson's disease.
Contact reporter Bruce Pascoe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4145. On Twitter @BrucePascoe