For two years, Robbie Dema has been one of the most recognizable people on the Arizona campus.
Even if he existed in near-anonymity.
Wilbur Wildcat finally revealed himself on Sunday night during halftime of Arizona’s 79-66 win over Stanford, as Dema stepped from behind a curtain at midcourt to show himself to the crowd that has come to know him as the team mascot.
But after a two-year stint as the face of Arizona athletics – though Ka’Deem Carey and Nick Johnson might have something to say about that – now comes the hard part.
Taking off the suit.
The harder part?
What to do with all this free time.
“It’s cool after two years to say I’m the mystery man, but it’s hard,” Dema said. “I’m gonna have so much free time. That’s a big adaptation to make.”
No bigger than the one he had to get the job in the first place.
A little more than two years ago, the then-freshman got the urge to try out because a female classmate was wrapping up her two-year run as Wilma Wildcat. She broke it down for him — the application process consisted of the one-handed pushups that are a requirement.
Dema did 36, then thrilled the selection committee with his antics and wrapped up the job over two other finalists.
Dema, who had an acting background and played several sports as a boy, took to the job immediately. The dancing and the preening and the pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.
“Not too many people can say they represented a school of 40,000 people,” Dema said. “Having the support of the entire state, the entire city of Tucson? Knowing you can make somebody’s day with just a picture? It’s been an incredible ride, and it’s going to be hard to let go.”
Less than an hour before tipoff, holed up in his locker room, Dema swallowed the lump in his throat, the knowledge that the end was near getting more and more real.
He helped decide his replacements, saying, “I saw my mannerisms and thought, ‘That’s him. That’s Wilbur.’ ”
“It was hard bottling it up for two years,” Dema said. “Saying I’m just a manager. At the end, it will be nice to take pride in the work I’ve done. I think I’ve left something really nice behind.”
Stanford’s Josh Huestis has come a long way since being a 2.3-point-per-game freshman. So much so that a nine-point, eight-rebound, three-block, two-assist, two-steal performance against Arizona State on Thursday was received with a collective ‘meh.’ That’s what happens after earning a Pac-12 Player of the Week award, which he won on Monday after averaging 15.5 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in wins over UCLA and USC last week.
Sights and Sounds
Former Arizona head coach Lute Olson and former Wildcat football stars Lance Briggs and Adrian Koch took in the game on Sunday night. … T.J. McConnell and Elliott Pitts connected on a three-pointer that got the crowd nuts. With 12:38 left in the first, McConnell dished a no-look pass to Pitts on the right side, and Pitts caught-and-popped for a six-point Arizona lead. … Referee Verne Harris called a timeout after apparently pulling a hamstring with 16:24 left in the game. He limped off the court.
Quote of the Night
“To win a championship in a conference as good as the Pac -12 is, as deep as it is this year, it takes everybody. These guys, their families, the assistant coaches and staff, the administration — and everything they’ve done to put us in position to win. And believe me when I tell you the Zona Zoo and the fans.” – Sean Miller, to the crowd after the Wildcats cut down the McKale nets.
68 It appears that Arizona found the formula for the post-Brandon Ashley era. The Wildcats have won their last three games, including Sunday’s, by a combined 68 points.
Tweet of the Night
“This is stupid. And getting stupider. Arizona up 68-43 over Stanford with 9:40 to go. McKale is rocking. #SeniorNight #Love.” — ZachEClark