Campus Guide: A to Z Arizona Athletics
Editor’s note: This article is part of the Arizona Summer Wildcat’s 2014 Campus Guide. The Campus Guide is a special issue that runs every year to help introduce incoming students to the UA and campus life.
On Feb. 1, Brandon Ashley suffered a heart-breaking foot injury against California that ended his stellar sophomore campaign. A fixture in Arizona’s starting five last season, Ashley averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, leaving many to wonder what could have happened in March if he had been healthy.
The 2013-14 men's basketball team walks through ZonaZoo after winning 79-66 against Stanford in McKale Center last season. The Wildcats finished the season 33-5 and advanced to the Elite Eight.
In 1926, UA quarterback, catcher and student body president John “Button” Salmon suffered a fatal car accident and said to former Arizona head football coach J.F. “Pop” McKale: “Tell them … tell the team to bear down” before his death. “Bear Down” has developed into more than just a mere battle cry. Many UA students and alumni own something with the slogan on it.
2014 marked Mike Candrea’s 29th season as Arizona head softball coach. Candrea led the team to a 44-16 record in 2014. The team was undefeated at home this season until No. 1 Oregon won two out of three against the No. 11 Wildcats at Hillenbrand Stadium to end the regular season. Arizona hosted a first round Regional in the NCAA Tournament.
In Arizona, everyone chooses a side. Either you’re a Wildcat or a Sun Devil, and you don’t associate with the enemy. The rivalry between the UA and ASU is one of the biggest rivalries in the Pac-12. Every year, the two schools battle for the Territorial Cup.
Coming off the 2014 Pac-12 Vault Co-Champion title, junior gymnast Shelby Edwards is one of the Gymcat leaders and will be looking to reclaim her title. She was also named second team all-conference for beam. Edwards and the Gymcats will be looking to return to the postseason regionals for the 29th consecutive year.
Arizona women’s soccer sophomore Jaden DeGracie is known for her signature flip throw-in, a rare talent that she learned from her gymnastics experience. Just like a normal soccer throw-in, she runs up to the line, but then dips her head down and flips, throwing the ball farther and shocking opponents.
Zach Gibbons, a sophomore outfielder, played in 52 of 55 games as a freshman, and through the beginning of May, started every game this year. In 2014, Gibbons was among the best in the Pac-12 Conference in batting average and total hits.
In 2013-14, Arizona hockey became the first team in school history to beat two No. 1 ranked opponents: Minot State and ASU. The Wildcats also ended their 37-game losing streak against ASU and went to the national tournament for the first time since 2006. The UA also won 17 games, the most since 2007-2008.
The UA has an abundance of international student-athletes. The campus’ unique coaches and comfortable environment has attracted athletes from countries all around the world, like men’s basketball player Dusan Ristic, who is from Serbia, and women’s tennis player Laura Oldham, who is from England.
Stanley Johnson will make an immediate impact on the Arizona’s men’s basketball team when he arrives next year. Arguably the best player in the competitive Southern California region, Johnson, a five-star recruit, was ranked as the best forward in the state and pegged as the No. 7 overall recruit in the class of 2014.
Junior indoor and sand volleyball player Madi Kingdon finished the indoor season after being named to the All-Pac-12 team and earned AVCA All-Region honors. She led the Pac-12 in points. Her 508 kills were the sixth-most in Arizona history for a single season. Additionally, she helped lead Arizona in its inaugural sand volleyball season. The Wildcats won their first five sand volleyball matches.
One of the most unrecognized Wildcat stars, Lawi Lalang has won seven national championships in both on-the-track and cross country going into the summer of 2014. He is also a NCAA All-American for both track and cross country. To add to his accolades, Lalang is also an Academic All-American.
Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller has quickly restored the luster to the program after the UA’s leadership crisis when the Wildcats had to use interim head coaches for two seasons in a row. Miller led the Wildcats to two Elite Eights and a Sweet Sixteen, and with another top-10 recruiting class, they are ranked in the preseason top-five for 2014-15.
With freshman forward Aaron Gordon and junior guard Nick Johnson being drafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, Arizona added two more to a prestigious NBA lineage. Through 2014, professional basketball teams have drafted 67 Wildcats. Through this June’s draft, the UA has had 38 players picked by the NBA since 1988, tied for the best during that span with Duke and Kentucky.
Legendary men’s basketball coach Lute Olson won 587 games at Arizona and brought the school its only NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship in 1997. From the many NBA players he produced to the program records he established to the prestige he continues to bring to the program, one thing is clear: Lute Olson is Arizona basketball.
POINT GUARD U
Mike Bibby, Damon Stoudamire, Miles Simon, Gilbert Arenas, Steve Kerr and Jason Terry. These names are synonymous with on-the-court success at Arizona. Not to mention they are just a handful of the guards that got their start at Arizona and helped dub it “Point Guard U.”
Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez has often said he likes to collect quarterbacks. Six signal callers will compete for the starting job vacated by B.J. Denker’s graduation. The Wildcats lost their first, second and third string 2013 QBs. The 2014 quarterback corps includes transfers from LSU, USC and Texas.
Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez may not have been a “Michigan Man,” but he has been welcomed in Tucson. The Michigan football program got better every year he was there and has gotten worse every year since he was fired. He’s won two bowl games in two seasons at the UA, while the Wolverines have won one in three seasons post-Rich Rod.
Despite the departure of head coach Eric Hansen early in the season, the UA swimming and diving team regrouped under the leadership of Rick “Rocket” DeMont. The team collected four individual national titles at the NCAA Championships, including two by breaststroke specialist, Kevin Cordes.
Known simply as “Zeus,” the 7-foot sophomore was a big part of the men’s basketball team’s tournament run in 2014. In his sophomore season, Kaleb Tarczewski averaged 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 Conference with a .581 field-goal percentage in league games. Zeus will be joined underneath the basket by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley next season.
Students who attended the Arizona men’s home basketball games this season never left with a bitter taste in their mouths, as the Wildcats remained undefeated in McKale Center. The Wildcats could go undefeated again at home in 2014-15, as they are projected to be a top-five team for next season.
The Arizona sand volleyball team finished its inaugural season 8-12 after starting the year 5-0 in 2014. Next year should deliver even better results, as the team featured no seniors in 2014. The indoor team went 21-13, including a win over No. 1 USC, and made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
Arizona’s athletic teams are called the Wildcats, and fans often call them the “Cats.” The nickname came in 1914 after a football game where the Los Angeles Times wrote, “The Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats.” The UA has male (Wilbur) and female (Wilma) mascots who were married in 1986.
An X factor for the upcoming 2014-15 Arizona basketball season could be sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. During his debut season, Hollis-Jefferson played as a reserve and occasional starter. However, as the season continued, the freshman proved to be more pivotal than initially foreseen by averaging 9.1 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game and over a block per game. He is now expected to start after passing on the NBA.
Point guard Gabe York was an important role player for the Arizona men’s basketball team this year, especially after Brandon Ashley’s season-ending injury. He could play a major part in the team’s success for 2014-15 with several of the 2013-14 team’s high-profile players declaring for the NBA draft.
ZonaZoo continues to show up in force to support one of the best college basketball teams in the nation and in 2014 the section experienced a revival for football. ZonaZoo was voted the No. 8 college basketball student section in the nation by College Basketball News and No. 1 in the Pac-12 by ESPN.
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