Hansen's Sunday Notebook: The one that got away

Sahuaro grad Leverenz could have meant NCAA title for Wildcat women
2012-03-27T14:00:00Z Hansen's Sunday Notebook: The one that got away Arizona Daily Star
March 27, 2012 2:00 pm

Editor’s note: This story first appeared Sunday as an exclusive for out print readers.

Here's how much difference one swimmer can make in the NCAA championships: Had Sahuaro grad Caitlin Leverenz swum for Arizona instead of Cal, the Wildcats would've won the national championship last week.

Leverenz led Cal to the NCAA championship, winning titles in the 200 breast stroke and the 200 IM and keying two title-winning relay teams. She was named Swimmer of the Meet, and soon is likely to be selected the 2012 NCAA Women's Swimmer of the Year.

Apply Leverenz's totals - she scored 57 points individually and helped add another 80 in relays (Arizona scored 68 in those two relays) - and it represented a 69-point swing from Arizona to Cal.

Had Leverenz chosen to be a Wildcat, those 69 points would've lowered Cal to 343.5 and given Arizona 368, enough to overtake runner-up Georgia's 366.

Just sayin', right?

"Caitlin's been a joy to coach," Cal coach Teri McKeever said at the NCAA meet. "She really struggled her freshman year coming in after some disappointment (at the 2008 Olympic trials) and her senior year in high school. That was a little rocky and I just really challenged her after that freshman year. She's still got things to do, but it will be exciting to see how the summer, the Olympic trials and her senior year go."

Leverenz now joins the Mount Rushmore of Tucson-area female swimmers. It's an impressive 20-year list:

• Benson's Crissy Ahmann Perham, a two-time NCAA champion and 13-time All-American at Arizona who won gold and silver medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

• Salpointe's Colleen Lanne, a former Big 12 Swimmer of the Year, a two-time NCAA champion and silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

• Mountain View's Lacey Nymeyer John, a two-time NCAA champion at Arizona, a 24-time All-American who won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was the 2009 NCAA Woman of the Year.

Who's next? It could be UA sophomore Sarah Denninghoff, a Sabino grad who was fourth in the NCAA 200 backstroke final last week and also an All-American on a national runner-up relay team.

"Sarah's got a great future," said UA coach Eric Hansen. "Her coachability has really taken off this season. Her best is yet to come."

Miller in the MIrror?

Ex-Duquesne point guard has UA coach's instincts

In his search for "Arizona-good" reinforcements, Sean Miller is sure to take a long look at Duquesne sophomore point guard T.J. McConnell, who last week announced he will transfer and sit out the 2012-13 season.

What Miller is likely to see is a likeness of the Sean Miller of 1990, when he was a sophomore at Pitt.

McConnell is the son of a prominent Pittsburgh-area high school coach, Tim McConnell. Miller is the son of a former prominent Pittsburgh-area coach, John Miller.

Their playing styles are uncannily similar: feisty, cerebral, pass-first playmakers. McConnell was the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in 2010-11, which, in that league - now superior to the Pac-12 - suggests he is "Arizona-good."

Whether Miller pursues McConnell or not, one thing is certain: After watching Kentucky beat Indiana in Friday's Sweet 16, Arizona's available personnel is nowhere near Final Four caliber. To run in the Derby, you must first have thoroughbreds.

In that regard, watching the NCAA tournament must be a sobering experience for fans of UA hoops.

Short Stuff

Credit Feder for success of spring training games

Tucson drew 22,981 for three spring training baseball games at Kino Stadium, which is about as good as it gets. These exhibitions should be known as the Mike Feder Games, because without him there would've been no spring training games here this year (or last). The Tucson Padres general manager is Mr. Baseball in this community, and the future of Pacific Coast League in Tucson is also tied to his continued involvement. His reward? I think it was that he stood by the batting cage Friday, chatting with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Los Angeles All-Star Matt Kemp, getting his baseball fix from two of the game's biggest names. … Entering her 18th season on the LPGA Tour, three-time Arizona All-American Leta Lindley announced this will be her last year. A class act, Lindley pocketed nearly $3 million on the LPGA circuit, winning the 2008 Corning Classic and earning more than $100,000 in each of 11 seasons. She is married to former UA golfer Matt Plagmann. … When Amphi forward Tim Derksen was honored as Arizona's 2012 Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year last week, it was the first time a Tucson player had been so honored since 1994. The only other Tucsonans selected by Gatorade were Sunnyside's Jermaine Watts in 1994 and the Blue Devils' Deron Johnson in 1988 and 1989. … As Pima College softball coach Armando Quiroz continues his quest for a national championship, his evaluation skills remain sharp. Quiroz last summer decided that San Manuel High School infielder Noelle Medina was good enough to play at the highest level of NJCAA softball. Indeed. Through Friday, Medina led the ACCAC with 58 RBIs and had also hit 11 home runs.

More SHort Stuff

UA baseball schedule like the pros

Something seems wrong here: UA baseball coach Andy Lopez is in the middle of a stretch in which the Wildcats are playing 21 games in 31 days. He refers to it as "academic wear and tear." In the last two weeks, UA baseball players had just four days off but used three of those days traveling to Texas and Oregon. The NCAA erred by condensing the baseball season and putting them on a pro-type schedule, classwork be damned. … Last week, UA junior third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean, a Cienega High grad, became the eighth Tucsonan to be named the Pac-10/12 Player of the Week. The others: Steve Strong, Sabino, in 1986; Willie Morales, Tucson, 1993; Diego Rico, Sunnyside, 1995; Colin Porter, CDO, 1998; Shelley Duncan, CDO, 1999 and 2001; Ernie Durazo, Tucson, 2001; T.J. Steele, CDO, 2007. … After Tucson native Tasha Dickey left the UA women's basketball program, where she started 21 games in three years, she transferred to Kansas State. Good move. Dickey started all 34 games, averaging 9.9 points and reached the NCAA tournament with KSU last week. Her career came to an end Monday night on ESPN when she shot 1 for 12 and KSU scored just 26 points in a 72-26 second-round game against UConn. Tasha was reunited in Manhattan, Kan., with her parents, UA alumnus and KSU assistant football coach Charlie Dickey and former UA basketball standout Lisa Bradshaw Dickey. … Nogales native Bob Baffert and Tucson auto dealers Paul Weitman and Karl Watson appear to be headed back to the Kentucky Derby. Their 3-year-old Secret Circle won the $500,000 Rebel Stakes in Arkansas last week. Baffert told Watson the horse was "breathing fire" before the race. The Associated Press ranks Secret Circle No. 4 in their Top 10 "Run for the Roses." … It has been a very good year for the wrestling Filbert brothers of Ironwood Ridge High School. Scott Filbert, a freshman at Army, won 21 matches for the Cadets in the 125-pound class this year. Matt Filbert, a junior at Ironwood Ridge, won the state championship at 152 pounds. … The USA Olympics Hall of Fame ballot for 2012 includes former UA national championship synchronized swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Tracie Ruiz-Conforto and the Dream Team, Mike Candrea's undefeated 2004 Athens Olympic gold medal softball team that included Salpointe's Tairia Flowers. Those two entries should be locks. … Rather than return to Maryland and play his junior season under coach Mark Turgeon, with whom he has butted heads, Santa Rita grad Terrell Stoglin might've been better served to redshirt and transfer to a Pac-12 school like Washington or Oregon. It would be nice to see how Stoglin could benefit from up-tempo coaches such as Oregon's Dana Altman and the Huskies' Lorenzo Romar. But I understand the culture; a player of Stoglin's ability is in a rush to get to the "next level," wherever it may be.

My Two Cents

Stoops was part of problem, despite what he said recently

Mike Stoops' recent Arizona-did-me-wrong rant to CBSSports.com was absurd.

He said "we may have got it as good as it can get," at Arizona, which is an insult to those who coached and played for Larry Smith and Dick Tomey, both of whom established a culture of success. Those coaches weren't stymied by a perceived lack of administration support, or second-class facilities, which was another ridiculous assertion by Stoops.

Stoops didn't work hard enough at recruiting, his defensive ideas didn't work, and he didn't embrace the community. He left as he came: an outsider, a reclusive, virtual stranger.

During Stoops' run at Arizona, only Oregon State and Oregon had superior facilities in the Pac-12. I know. I've visited all in recent years. In fact, Arizona had a better football plant than Wazzu, Colorado, Cal, UCLA and USC, and about the same as those at Washington, Utah and Arizona State.

Stoops said: "There's a reason they haven't won a championship at Arizona, and it's not bad coaching or bad players."

But, in fact, his program failed precisely because of bad coaching (Arizona was ranked No. 110 in total defense last year) and bad playing (no UA player was on the all-conference team in 2011).

In a sophisticated conference overflowing with star-level offensive coordinators and head coaches, Stoops hired a rookie, 31-year-old Seth Littrell, to run Arizona's offense.

It was embarrassing.

This is all you need to know about Stoops' coaching performance here: He did not recruit CDO linebacker Blake Martinez, who as a high school senior, was probably as good or better than any linebacker on the Wildcats roster, a group that allowed 35.8 points per game, the second-worst total in school history.

Instead, Martinez accepted a scholarship from Stanford's David Shaw, who was the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. It figures, doesn't it?

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

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