The perfect storm is brewing down in the Old Pueblo. And now might be the perfect time to get your ticket to the show about to unfold at McKale Center.
This particular display of high-flying basketball at the University of Arizona may last just one season, so catch it while you can.
After head coach Sean Miller signed up a couple of high-school recruits with obvious NBA potential, he also added a former NBA player to his staff to help speed their development and become impact players their first year on the floor. That just might create a one-and-done situation for both youngsters, but that’s an accepted risk for most college coaches these days.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 6’7″ small forward from Pennsylvania, signed on with the Cats back in November, and Aaron Gordon, a high-scoring forward from California, came on board in April. Both were rated by ESPN among the 2014 Top-10 NBA prospects.
Then, just a little more than a week ago, Miller announced the return of Damon Stoudamire to the Wildcat family. He will join the coaching staff to replace James Whitford, who left to take the head coaching job at Ball State.
Stoudamire, one of the most popular players to wear a Wildcat uniform, went on to play for six different teams during a 13-year career in the NBA. Then he went from playing the game to coaching the game, two years as an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies and two seasons on staff at the University of Memphis.
Stoudamire was a guard during his playing days, but he brings expertise to some of the weaker areas of Gordon’s and Hollis-Jefferson’s game. Both need work on their jump shots and Gordon, who averaged 21.6 points his senior year at Archbishop Mitty High School and was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game, will require some help with his ball-handling skills to enable him to move between the post and small-forward positions.
Enter Coach Stoudamire. He still ranks sixth on the all-time list for career scoring at Arizona with 1,849 points and is the only player in program history to score 40 points in a single game twice, and only one of three Wildcats to twice tally more than 600 points in a season.
He continued to be an offensive weapon at the pro level, averaging 19 points a game in his rookie year with the Toronto Raptors and a career-best 20.2 points the next year. During eight years with the Portland Trail Blazers he averaged almost 16 points per game and set the Portland single-game scoring record with 54 points against New Orleans.
Now he brings that smooth stroke to Tucson, where Miller hopes he can help his team reach the potential that comes with a top-5 recruiting class that will be mixed with some seasoned talent that includes the 7-foot sophomore, Kaleb Tarczewski, filling the lane and Nick Johnson, a junior who has become not only a solid scorer on the wing but also one of the best defenders in the country.
Add to that T.J. McConnell, a transfer from Duquesne who will challenge senior Jordin Mayes for the point-guard position.
This squad should be fun to watch – and tough to beat. And the Arizona AD, Greg Byrne, is trying to make it even easier to reserve tickets for the show next season. To “celebrate the return” of Stoudamire, the school is reducing the deposit required to reserve season tickets, from the normal $50 to $20 – which was Stoudamire’s jersey number during his college career. But the offer expires June 10.
Step right up, folks… tickets are going fast. And this may be a limited-run engagement.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)