None of the current Wildcats were alive when Arizona reached the 1988 Final Four but there were still plenty of things to relate to when the two teams met each other this weekend.
For one thing, there are those jerseys of Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott hanging up at McKale Center. There are murals of former Wildcats who made the NBA in the hallways. And there is constant preaching from Sean Miller about the importance of former UA teams.
“We talk a lot about respecting the past,” Miller said.
Individually, the players had a chance to meet the guys they have heard about and maybe watched in the NBA.
Guard Nick Johnson, for one, gushed about meeting Sean Elliott.
“He’s probably the best player in the program’s history," Johnson said. "He’s a great guy."
Then there were certain things that everyone could relate to, when the former Wildcats addressed their successors of today.
“I think (the current team) cherished the opportunity for those guys to talk,” Miller said. “When Jud Buechler talked about how it was being in a Chicago Bulls practice with Michael Jordan, there’s not one player who isn’t listening to that. That’s the great part about playing at Arizona, that you’re able to share this family we have with people like that.”
Miller also used Buechler’s experience as a reserve in 1988 to hammer home his message that guys need to accept roles for the good of the team.
“He averaged three points that year,” Miller said. “I don’t know if he sulked or pouted or what he did, but I know that during his last year he was averaging almost a double-double every game. ... A player who played in the NBA for more than a decade averaged three points. On this year’s team, if we are going to reach the pinnacle and reach our goals and be the best we can be, much better than last year’s team, we certainly are going to sacrifice.”
The time for those roles, that sacrifice, essentially begins now. Miller said the gaps between players are starting to widen and the Wildcats will put only five guys on the floor from here on out.
“From this point on, we all go to one bench,” Miller said. “Not everybody will shoot the amount of shots that they want, score the amount of points that they hope to, play the amount of minutes that they aspire to. How we as a coaching staff, as a team and as individual players, handle that is crucial to our success.”
Of course, Miller made some brief mentions of the impact that Sunday may have had on recruits, who sat in the first row of seats on the West side of McKale Center.
Today “was about the past touching the current,” Miller said. “Obviously, when you’re in this building, and you feel it and you’re a prospect, you know that this is one remarkable place to go to school at, a community to grow and live in, and to be a part of a basketball program that is more than a team. It has all the elements of greatness attached to it.”
For what it was worth, Aaron Gordon sat next to guard Elliott Pitts, who committed to UA in August and tweeted that he had a good time Saturday along with 2014 target Stanley Johnson.
The gold jersey given to UA players each week in practice, for having the best statistical week in practice the week before, has so far gone to Johnson and Grant Jerrett.
Miller said it was impressive that Jerrett was able to earn the honor so early as a freshman and that he easily beat out second-place Solomon Hill.
“The gap was very significant,” Miller said. “It just shows that Grant has gotten better since the summer. I’m really excited about his progress.
Jerrett, of course, also made a major statement Sunday, with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one block and a steal.
We'll have our full coverage posted at midnight.