Before Bryce Cotton begins his senior season at Providence College, he desperately wants to play basketball July 7-16 in Kazan, Russia, which has rarely been a ballplayer's ideal destination.
But the Palo Verde High School grad, the Big East Conference's leading scorer last season, is intent on making the Team USA roster for the World University Games, to be played in Kazan.
"When I left Palo Verde I didn't have a single offer from a Division I, Division II or Division III team until Providence signed me a week before school started," Cotton says now. "So you can't say I'm nervous about the tryouts. After what I've gone through, I believe I can play at the highest level."
Cotton, a shooting guard who averaged 19.7 points last season at Providence, including 33 against Boston College, will be one of 27 players at the USOC facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week. The competition is unusually difficult. Guards such as Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie, BYU's Tyler Haws and Indiana's Yogi Ferrell are among the invitees. Twelve players will be chosen by coach Bob McKillop of Davidson.
"Making the All-Big East first team was surreal in some ways," says Cotton, who helped Palo Verde to the 2010 state semifinals, averaging 23 points. "I had been under the radar for so long, but now I've got a little bit of a name. I'm getting used to it."
Cotton is on track to receive his degree in sociology next year. Even though he has his senior season remaining, he has emerged as one of the four leading college players from a Tucson school in the modern era. He joins UA's Sean Elliott (Cholla), ASU's Lafayette "Fat" Lever (Pueblo) and Maryland's Terrell Stoglin (Santa Rita) at the top.
"Just being invited to the tryouts is prestigious," says Cotton, who was 14th in the NCAA in three-point baskets per game (3.06) in 2012-13. "But I believe I belong in that company now."
Big week for UA swimmers
Dominant Cordes could win 3 titles at USA national meet
Of the 458 swimmers who qualified for the USA national championships this week in Indianapolis, 31 are from the UA or the UA-affiliated Ford Aquatics program.
None has a higher profile that Arizona junior-to-be Kevin Cordes, the 2013 NCAA Male Swimmer of the Year and America/world record holder. Cordes could win three events: the 50, 100 and 200 breast stroke.
Cordes comes from the same Tucson program as Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers, who could qualify for next month's world championships in as many as four events.
"You can hear the excitement in my voice every time I talk about Kevin," said UA coach Eric Hansen. "He can blow the place up."
It wouldn't be a shock if Cordes established multiple world records while in Indianapolis.
Beyond Cordes, the UA-related contingent to Indianapolis is deep and impressive. Margo Geer is seeded fifth in the 50 freestyle; Giles Smith is ranked sixth in two butterfly events; ex-Cat and 2012 Olympian Clark Burckle is set to challenge Cordes at every step in the breast stroke; UA sophomore Bonnie Brandon is ranked in the top five in two backstroke events; and Ford Aquatics/UA swimmers Christine Magnuson, Ellyn Baumgardner and Kait Flederbach are all significant contenders.
Sahuaro High School grad and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz is the favorite in the 400 IM. Ex-Sabino and UA swimmer Sarah Denninghoff, who completed her college career at Texas, is seeded 10th in the 50 backstroke.
Salpointe, Sabino will open season at same time as UA
In an unfortunate piece of scheduling, state title football contenders Salpointe Catholic and Sabino will play Aug. 30 at Salpointe, the same night Arizona and NAU meet at Arizona Stadium. The more entertaining game is likely to be the one at Salpointe. The Lancers last weekend won the 48-team summer league passing tournament in San Diego among teams from California, Arizona and Utah. Dennis Bene's squad went 9-0. "This was really big for our kids," said Bene. Last week, Sabercats coach Jay Campos, who has won 79 games in eight seasons, took his team to South Bend, Ind., for the Notre Dame summer league camp. Get your tickets now. … Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez held his final summer camp of the weekend Saturday at the UA's practice facility. Vacation? What vacation? About 100 prospects were on campus, including eight from talent-rich St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, Calif. The host was St. Bonnie alumnus and incoming UA freshman tailback Zach Green. Among the St. Bonaventure players at Arizona was 235-pound junior lineman Patrick Dotsy, brother of former UA starting lineman Vaughn Dotsy. … Among those emerging in the football recruiting scene this summer is Salpointe sophomore-to-be Justin Holt, son of 1980s UA starting defensive lineman Julius Holt. At USC's invitation, Justin is scheduled to attend the Trojans' Rising Stars Camp next weekend in Los Angeles. He earlier attended RichRod's Big Man camp this month.
More Short Stuff
Barrett joins pro ranks, will jump for cash
After completing her college career on a 25-meet winning streak, three-time NCAA outdoor high jump titlist Brigetta Barrett got her long-deserved payday last week. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist signed with Doyle Management. The Atlanta-based firm also represents track and field stars such as Ashton Eaton and Lolo Jones. Barrett is likely to spend the rest of the summer on the Diamond League circuit in Europe. … Flowing Wells grad Tara Erdmann, who is part of the Nike Oregon distance-running project, qualified for the world championships by finishing third in the USA finals at 10,000 meters last week. But she didn't meet the qualifying time standard of 32:05. She was 19 seconds shy. The Nike group is scheduled to arrange a special 10,000-meter race for Erdmann in early July so she can attempt to qualify to join Team USA in Russia in early August … Jennifer Bergman completed a terrific UA running career as a two-time All-American, finishing sixth in the NCAA 10,000 meters two weeks ago. She then finished eighth last week in the U.S. championships in Des Moines, Iowa. People noticed. Bergman signed with the Mizuno Running team last week. Well deserved. … NAU basketball coach Jack Murphy, a former UA basketball operations director and manager, will play host to Sean Miller, Damon Stoudamire and Josh Pastner at the Lumberjacks annual Coaches Clinic in Flagstaff, Aug. 2-3. High school, junior college and youth coaches from Southern Arizona are invited. Information: email@example.com. First-year Ironwood Ridge basketball coach Mark Felix, who coached Catalina Foothills to a 29-4 record last season, led the Nighthawks to a second-place finish, among 27 teams, in Murphy's annual team camp last week. … Few basketball players in Tucson have made more of a recruiting impact this summer than Cienega High School's 6-foot-3-inch junior-to-be Terrence Johnson. He was offered a scholarship by Weber State earlier this month; Johnson averaged 11.8 points for the Bobcats as a sophomore. … If the Phoenix Suns indeed return their October training headquarters to Tucson, it won't raise an eyebrow locally. The Phoenix Coyotes would create more of a stir.
Sabercats grad Hardy having best season, even stole a base
With more than 1.8 million votes, Sabino grad J.J. Hardy leads vote-getters at shortstop on the American League All-Star team. The Orioles star, 31 in August, played in the 2007 All-Star Game and was the 2012 American League Gold Glove shortstop. He appears to be having his best season; through Friday, Hardy was hitting . 274 with 15 homers. He hit 30 home runs in 2011. Stat of the week: Hardy stole his first base in three seasons with Baltimore last week, in more than 360 games. … If you pay attention to Mississippi State and UCLA in the College World Series finals, check out MSU starting center fielder C.T. Bradford. He is the son of 1976 Amphitheater High School All-City pitcher Mike Bradford, who also played at Mississippi State and now lives in Florida. C.T.'s grandfather is Amphi and UA grad Bob Bradford. … KVOA Channel 4 sports anchor Ryan Recker is leaving to become a morning sports anchor for a Pittsburgh station, on his home turf. A few weeks ago, KVOA's weekend sports anchor, George Savaricas left to become a reporter at Golf Channel. In my opinion, Recker was one of the five leading sports anchors in Tucson TV history, joining Ed Sorenson, Dan Hicks, Steve Cyphers and Kevin McCabe. Pros, all. … The Pac-12 Networks sent a production crew to Tucson last week to assemble a one-hour special on the 1992 Arizona-Washington football game. Arizona's newly emerged Desert Swarm ended No. 1 UW's 22-game winning streak, 16-3. The special is scheduled to be televised several times during the football season, part of the league's choice of 20 best games of the last quarter-century.
My Two Cents
Ex-Cats in same, different boat
It's likely that former Arizona basketball players Solomon Hill and Grant Jerrett will be selected in the second round of Thursday's NBA draft, and for entirely different reasons.
Hill, a grinder, is apt to be chosen somewhere around No. 50 because he has a high basketball IQ, is versatile, a good teammate, and is willing to do the dirty work. Jerrett, who lacks strength, athleticism and a consistent work ethic, will be taken in the same range because he is almost 7 feet tall and is a good outside shooter.
Hill is a man. Jerrett is a kid. The NBA is in the market for both.
The only regret is that Jerrett rushed the process. Had he stayed in college, whether at Arizona or by transferring elsewhere, he had the makings of a lottery pick in 2014 or 2015. It's risky business in a sport, pro basketball, that views players as disposable properties.