Arizona basketball walk-on Hazzard shares experience of becoming a Wildcat
The talented pieces the Arizona basketball team has added to its roster this season are pretty well known. Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Gabe York make up the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation. The Wildcats new starting point guard, Mark Lyons, is a talented transfer from Xavier.
That’s not even to mention point guard T.J. McConnell and big man Matt Korcheck, who have to sit out the 2012-13 season due to transfer rules.
That makes it easy to call Jacob Hazzard the forgotten man, especially considering his status as a walk-on guard.
“Everyone is a part of what we do and is important,” head coach Sean Miller said. “Jacob and Max (Wiepking) and a few of the other walk-ons are crucial to our everyday success. He has done a great job up to this point.”
Jacob Hazzard, who attended Loyola High School in Los Angeles, averaged 12.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.5 three-pointers per game in his senior year of high school, where he played alongside five-star 2014 recruit Parker Jackson-Cartwright. According to Scout.com, the UA is one of nine schools in the running for the point guard.
The Arizona Daily Wildcat spoke with Hazzard at Media Day.
Daily Wildcat: Why did you decide to come to Arizona?
Jacob Hazzard: The team here, the coaching staff and the facilities kind of sold me on my visit here, so Im glad I came to a great team with a lot of potential.
How does it feel to be a part of a team with such high expectations?
It’s great. We work really hard in practice every day and our work pays off. We’re looking forward to the season and we just need to get going. I can’t wait to see how far we can go.
What’s it like playing with [point guard] Mark Lyons?
He’s very intense, a great role model and a great leader. It’s great to be behind him and learn from him and do what he can do. He makes me better and I try to make him better by playing tough “D”. He’s tough.
Did you get any scholarship offers from other Division I schools?
Not really. More D2, D3, so I knew this was definitely best for me. It’s Division I and a great school academically and athletically.
What was the process like for joining the roster as a walk-on?
I applied and got in, they contacted me. The coaches saw me play a couple of times and they came to see me and then they just made it happen.
What was it like when they contacted you?
I was shocked. It was a phone call. My coach had told me they were recruiting me and I was like ‘That’s crazy’. I had just got the [acceptance] letter the other day and I was just like ‘Wow’ what a coincidence. It was just kind of fate for me to come here.
How was it when you walked into practice for the first time and saw guys like Kaleb Tarczewski (the 7-foot freshman center)?
That’s college basketball. Its my dream to play college basketball, so I was a little skeptical at first. I didn’t know what to expect, but im used it. I’ve acclimated to the game. It’s just basketball now.
There are a lot of talented guards on the roster with guys like Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson, so playing time will be hard to come by. How do you keep fresh on the bench in case you’re needed?
I’m always ready. I’m ready right now if I need to. I just work hard in practice every day, and I try to get better and maybe get some minutes. If not I just get everyone else better and try to just stay ready for the games. If we win, that’s all I really care about. Playing time doesn’t have much to do with it.
Is there anyone on the team you’re closest with?
Probably Grant [Jerrett] and Brandon [Ashley], I’m cool with them. We were all here in the summer together since we’re all freshmen ,so we bonded. Theres also Q [Quinton Crawford] and Drew [Mellon], some other walk-ons that I’ve been chilling with in practice and stuff. The whole team is cool. Also my boy T.J. [transfer point guard T.J. McConnell]. They’ve been great and welcoming.
Since the team is so deep and talented, what are practices like?
It gets really competitive. You never want to lose in general, but you never want to lose in practice either, because any player can have your spot. So you try to go at everybody, and on the better days it gets really competitive and really loud. But at the end of the day we’re all one team.
What do you bring to the table as a player?
I’m definitely a shooter. I can knock down threes when I need to. As a defender I’m pretty quick on the ball. I can just be a ball hawk.