Legacy of Wildcats in NBA continues
Arizona’s Chase Budinger, right, shoots over Oregon’s Tajuan Porter, left, during the second half of an NCAA College basketball game Saturday Feb. 7, 2009 in Eugene, Ore (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
Arizona is among the leaders for most players drafted to the NBA since 1988, with 36 draft selections, putting it in the company of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA.
The long line of Arizona NBA draftees since 1988 starts with Steve Kerr, then Sean Elliott and Anthony Cook in 1989 and Solomon Hill and Grant Jerrett in 2013. Not only do Arizona players have an illustrious drafting history, but they also accomplish impressive feats as professionals.
A few notable players that have made stellar accomplishments in the NBA include Elliott, one-time NBA Champion and two-time NBA All-Star, whose number was retired by the San Antonio Spurs; Gilbert Arenas, three-time NBA All-Star; Andre Iguodala, one-time NBA All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist; and Damon Stoudamire, 1996 Rookie of the Year.
Jason Terry, a 14-year NBA veteran, was fortunate enough to win a title in both college and the NBA. Terry won the National Championship with Arizona in 1997 and the NBA Championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
The man referred to as “JET” said he isn’t done yet, though.
“There comes a time in every athlete’s professional career when he is looking for an edge, something to carry him into the next season,” Terry said during his introductory press conference with the Brooklyn Nets. “My goal is to win a championship. I have another opportunity in Brooklyn.”
Many Arizona players have already made a name for themselves in the pros. The future looks bright for the most recent former Wildcats in the NBA, including Jerryd Bayless, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams.
On Tuesday, former Arizona player Channing Frye announced he was cleared to play. Last year, Frye, who is awaiting clearance from the Phoenix Suns, was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and missed the season.
Bayless, Hill and Williams were all Arizona stars choosen in the NBA draft. Chase Budinger spent three seasons playing for the Wildcats despite being one of the top ranked prospects in the country.
Budinger left after his junior year and was selected in the 2nd round of the 2009 NBA Draft.
“I always thought I was worthy of a first-round pick,” Budinger said. “I used that 44th pick as motivation to prove people wrong.”
Budinger also spoke highly of former UA head coach Lute Olson, who made Arizona an elite basketball program.
“Lute Olson was the main factor why I chose Arizona,” Budinger said. “It’s the kind of program he runs and the freedom he lets his players play with.”
Budinger said self-confidence is key to being successful as an NBA player. He recently signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Many former Arizona players have proved their worth and received hefty paychecks in their careers, including Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Arenas, Iguodala and Terry. That’s not to mention Michael Dickerson, Luke Walton and Frye as well.
Current head coach Sean Miller continues to attract outstanding talents, such as freshman forward Aaron Gordon, MVP of the FIBA U19 World Championships, as well as many other blue-chip recruits. Many think Gordon will eventually become another top-notch product from Arizona.
—Follow Zach Tennen @ZTennen11