When Arizona’s Brigetta Barrett first appeared on campus in 2008, no one outside the track program knew who she was. She has since become a six-time NCAA champion, an Olympic silver medalist and a Pac-12 Woman of the Year.(Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star)
It's hard to predict who will make the biggest impact
On the first day of classes, August 2008, the most geeked-up, anticipated new recruit on Arizona’s campus was probably 7-foot basketball player Jeff Withey. He never played a minute for the Wildcats.
Outside of UA track and field coaches Fred Harvey and Sheldon Blockburger, no one in the Tucson athletic community had ever heard the name Brigetta Barrett, also debuting on campus in August 2008.
Barrett became a six-time NCAA champion, Pac-12 Woman of the Year and Olympic silver medalist, among the handful of greatest athletes in school history.
So much for the ability to predict college kids and their athletic futures.
It’s as Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea responded last week when I asked if freshman center fielder Eva Watson of Victoria, Va., looked to be, as touted, the next Caitlin Lowe, a four-tool player with an All-America future.
“I will let you know in May,” he said.
Given that, and recognizing that Arizona freshman basketball player Aaron Gordon would surely be ranked No. 1 in any listing of the school’s new athletes for 2013-14, I thus rank the Super Six first-year athletes on campus:
- 1. Bradley Tandy, swimming. Some swimming publications suggest Tandy, who is the latest in Arizona’s pipeline of world-class swimmers from South Africa, is the greatest junior-college swimmer ever. He set six NJCAA records in one year, all as a freestyle sprinter. His coach at Florida’s Indian River State College, Ryan Mallam said: “If you give him a couple more years, it’s a possibility he could be the fastest man in the world.”
- 2. Maria Larsson, distance running. A month ago in Italy, Larsson, of Billdal, Sweden, ran the European Junior Championships steeplechase in 9 minutes 56.90 seconds. How good is that? The all-time Arizona school record is 10:10.61. She projects as the newest of coach James Li’s elite distance runners.
- 3. Morgan Earman, baseball. UA baseball coach Andy Lopez didn’t secure Earman until mid-July, after the California Desert Christian Academy right-hander turned down a six-figure bonus from the New York Mets. In the November 2012 recruiting period, Earman chose to wait for the MLB draft instead of sign with any college. He then went 12-1 with a 0.29 ERA and a 93 mph fastball.
- 4. Jessica Vasilic, women’s golf. A two-time Rolex All-American who shot 67 when she was 14, the 6-foot-3-inch Vasilic, a Swedish native who went to high school in Anaheim Hills, Calif., was a starter on Team Europe’s Junior Solheim Cup team and averaged 271 yards on her drives in the tournament.
- 5. Penina Snuka, volleyball. If you want to produce a smile from Arizona volleyball coach Dave Rubio, mention 2000 and 2001 consensus All-America setter Dana Burkholder, who led the Wildcats to volleyball’s equivalent of the Final Four. Rubio said Snuka — her grandfather is wrestling legend Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, and her uncle is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — has a chance to impact her team the way Gordon could impact Arizona’s basketball team.
- 6. Bobby Dalbec, baseball. After choosing Arizona over Oregon, the 6-5, 230-pound Dalbec of Parker, Colo., was a draft prospect of such note that he flew to Chicago’s Wrigley Field and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium for private workouts. While at Wrigley Field, he hit 11 home runs in batting practice; at Busch Stadium he hit a ball off the Big Mac Land sign in the upper deck. He projects as Arizona’s third baseman of the future after telling MLB teams he planned to play college ball and would not sign a pro contract.
Waiting list: Softball’s Watson, a leadoff hitter with a .636 on-base percentage and a 4.0 GPA; men’s golfer Bertrand Mommaerts of Lasne, Belgium, the first impact recruit of coach Jim Anderson’s program; freshman linebacker Scooby Wright and freshman linebacker Nate Phillips, both expected to be part of the playing rotation in Arizona’s opener Friday.
TURNING A PROFIT
Tucson’s courses in black for first time since 2008
The embattled Tucson City Golf enterprise, five courses with a litany of financial and maintenance woes, has bounced back impressively.
At Thursday’s monthly Green’s Committee meeting, Mike Hayes, deputy director of TCG, provided figures from fiscal year 2013 that show a profit of $100,045. The same five courses lost a combined $620,013 a year earlier.
It is the first time since 2008 that TCG has been in the black, said Frank Salbego, chairman of the Green’s Committee.
What’s more, the troubled El Rio Golf Course was played more often in July than any of the city’s other courses, which can be traced to its relatively low cost per round and the word-of-mouth chatter about its unusually good playing condition (well, forget that the air conditioning in the clubhouse was broken for about a month).
Seven management firms sent research crews to Tucson last month, evaluating the possibility of taking over Tucson City Golf. Their proposals are due Sept. 5.
“We don’t need outside management for our courses,” said Salbego. “Whether this has been a wake-up call or not, we’ve turned the corner.”
At least now it’ll be a tough call for the City Council.
AD optimistic UA opener will draw at least 50,000
- Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne last week said the school hopes for “a hair over 50,000” fans for Friday’s football opener against NAU. That would leave about 8,000 empty seats, but given the caliber of opponent and a holiday weekend, 50,000 would be a coup. The Wildcats drew 48,670 for last year’s opener, against Toledo, and 51,761 a year earlier against NAU.
- The Lumberjacks are planning to start Sabino grad Kyle Walker at offensive tackle; Walker started 11 games last year and is an All-Big Sky possibility. Mountain View grad Devon McPeek, a redshirt freshman, is bidding for playing time in NAU’s secondary and on special teams. He was a standout wrestler and baseball player while at MVHS.
- CDO grad and Arizona’s 2008 power-hitting (20 homers) first baseman C.J. Ziegler seems sure to be the 2013 MVP of the American Association. Now 27, Ziegler leads the independent league in RBIs (92) and is second in homers (27) through Friday for the division champ Wichita Wingnuts. He hit for the cycle in a game last week and has now hit 98 minor-league home runs for nine teams since leaving Arizona. Ziegler has played in Mexico and Canada after being a 16th-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2008.
- Amazingly, Mike Candrea’s first NCAA championship pitcher at Arizona, Debby Day, is still at it. Last week in Michigan, she was the co-MVP of the NAFA World Series, which is basically a men’s fastpitch organization. Day, 44, the head women’s softball coach at Cal Lutheran, was 4-1 in 30 innings. She pitched Arizona to the 1991 national championship.
MORE SHORT STUFF
Jason Terry, set to be here Sept. 27, is now with the Nets.(Tucson Citizen 1999)
Terry to return for replay of ’97 title at Fox Theater
- Brooklyn Nets guard Jason Terry has committed to be part of the Sept. 27 fundraiser for the Primavera Foundation of Tucson at the Fox Theater. Terry and 1997 Arizona NCAA championship teammates A.J. Bramlett, Bennett Davison and Miles Simon, among others, are scheduled to appear at the big-screen showing of the 1997 national title game, which will begin at 7 p.m. About 1,000 tickets for $25 each are available. Information: 97cats.com.
- In doing research for a column I wrote last week on Tucson Cactus Little League’s 1973 Little League World Series national champions, Tucsonan Ed Vosberg told me the ’74 Cactus All-Stars might’ve been even better. “We lost the state championship game in the last inning on a diving catch,” said Vosberg, who pitched in the major leagues for 10 seasons. “Our ’74 team had three future major-leagues: Tom Pagnozzi, Mark Carreon and myself. I doubt anyone has ever had three big-leaguers on a single Little League team before.” Between them, Pagnozzi, Carreon and Vosberg played in 1,931 big-league games.
- Former UA football players Antoine Cason and receiver Mike Thomas, the cornerstones of Mike Stoops’ Arizona teams, are not likely to start for the Arizona Cardinals this year. Cason is viewed as a nickel back; Thomas as the fourth receiver. Since the Cardinals moved to Arizona 25 years ago, no Arizona Wildcat has ever been a full-time starter for them. Safety Chuck Cecil started seven games in 1993 and backup tailback Chuck Levy was the club’s top kickoff returner in 1994. The last ex-Wildcat to start for the Cardinals was tackle Mike Dawson in 1982. It’s difficult to believe that Cason, 27, who made all 16 starts for San Diego last season, is now a role player.
- Arizona’s 2012 starting QB Matt Scott appears safely inside the Jacksonville Jaguars roster of 75 players, when each NFL team must cut to that number Tuesday. The mystery is whether he’ll survive the cut to 53 players on Saturday. If he can survive this season on someone’s roster, his chances of being in the league for five or 10 years as, at minimum, a backup, will grow significantly.
PAC-12 FOOTBALL: WHO’S GONNA FINISH LAST?
Buffs, Cal could be headed for basement
I spent a mini-lifetime watching the Pac-12 Networks’ school-by-school tour of the league’s football programs the last two weeks.
I’ll say this about Rick Neuheisel, who did the bulk of the on-camera work: He has become the face of Pac-12 football.
If he’s not exhausted after two weeks on the road –asking the same questions day after day and getting the same answers — he sounded like it. Neuheisel limped to the finish, fighting a cold.
At every school, without fail, Pac-12 coaches and players had identical messages:
- We have a chip on our shoulder.
- We made great progress in the offseason.
- We have bonded; all of our guys have “bought in.”
- If we can stay healthy, we have a chance to win.
- We have changed the culture of football here.
Somehow Neuheisel absorbed all of that silliness and didn’t fall into a coma.
But somebody’s still got to finish last.
I think that’s an easier call than picking the winners.
So my bold prediction for the year is that Colorado and Cal will finish last in their respective divisions.
Tough out of the year: Washington State. The Cougars will not be a pushover any longer.
Team you absolutely, positively must beat: Utah. If you lose to the Utes, especially at home, nobody will understand.
Team most likely to finish 6-6, even with a chip on its shoulder: Arizona. If you are looking at the UA’s Sept. 7 game at UNLV as a sure victory, you may wish to do some research on the Rebels.
Let the chips fall where they may.
MY TWO CENTS
Pattie Feder deserves shot at last first pitch
When Kino Stadium, then Tucson Electric Park, debuted in 1998, the choice to throw out the first pitch was a cinch: Tucson businessman Roy Drachman, who was the key figure in bringing spring training to Tucson in 1947. Drachman, then 91, was perfect.
It won’t be as clear when the Tucson Padres play their final Pacific Coast League game Thursday at Kino Stadium. Maybe political giant Raul Grijalva should do it. He’s the one most responsible for building the ballpark at such a dreary location.
But I’m thinking T-Pads GM Mike Feder and his senior advisor Jack Donovan, probably the leading figures in Tucson minor-league history, along with original GM Merle Miller, will make a good call.
How about Pattie Feder, Mike’s wife, the behind-the-scenes face of the whole enterprise, the first person you see when you walk in the door? Pattie has worked for the Toros, Sidewinders and Padres for almost 20 years.
Can’t think of a more appropriate choice.