Sean Rooks tribute shines happiness to son, Kameron, in return to McKale
California's Kameron Rooks (44) guards Arizona's Dusan Ristic (14) during the men's basketball game in McKale Center on Feb. 12. Rooks is the son of former Arizona Wildcat Sean Rooks.
When California forward Kameron Rooks saw and heard his father Sean Rooks on the video board in McKale Center ending the Arizona introduction video with “This is Arizona,” there weren’t tears, just smiles.
Head coach Sean Miller topped off the intro video for years with the famous slogan and now this season, Ray Smith was the man called upon to end it after medically retiring. This time, Arizona welcomed Kameron back in the simplest yet classy way possible with Sean Rooks as the closer.
“It put a smile on my face,”Rooks said. “Every time I hear his voice, it puts a smile on my face.”
Miller and Arizona Athletics proposed the idea to California and Kameron about the video tribute to make sure it didn’t affect him emotionally minutes before one of the biggest road games for the Golden Bears this season. So Kameron was expecting to see his father on the big screen. Miller expressed how much Arizona respects the Rooks family.
“In some ways you almost wish you could do more, but I think that would’ve maybe put too much pressure on him as a young person who had to play,” Miller said. “It’s tough—you feel it as a basketball family, but your heart goes out to their family. We’re big fans of Kameron.”
Sean Rooks was a former UA player who played from 1988-1992 and died in June from heart disease hours after an interview for an assistant coaching job with the New York Knicks.
Saturday was Kameron’s first visit to Tucson since his father’s passing. He was reminded of the old times when the Rooks’ took visits to the Old Pueblo so Sean could reunite with his former teammates.
“It’s just amazing,” Rooks said. “Ever since I was a kid, I grew up here going to his reunions … It’s just weird coming back here.”
Kameron didn’t start against Arizona and is still in the recovery process from left knee injury he suffered in November, which required surgery.
He’s still in a knee brace and his running form appeared shaky at times, so he’s going through another rough patch in his life to put it lightly; it isn’t easy for a young player to absorb.
“He always preached ‘Trust the Process’; that’s what I’m doing right now,” Rooks said. “Of course I have my breakdowns, but that’s why I got my coaches. I usually go talk to my dad after games, but I have to rely on my coaches and talk to them … Of course it’s not going to replace my dad, but they did a great job stepping in and keeping me focused.”
Golden Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin was the authority figure that took a major hand in helping Kameron Even during a game like Saturday’s, Martin emphasized that ever since the day of Sean Rooks’ passing, it’s been an emotional season.
In a way, Martin has given all the advice and opportunities this season to assist Kameron in the right direction.
At the end of the day, a coach’s word can only mean so much, especially for a player who had a close relationship with his father.
When Kameron returned to full action after recovering from knee surgery, there were times in practice when nothing went his way and the lone option was to break down mentally.
All he wanted to do was ventilate all of his struggles to his dad, but he couldn’t.
The only option for Kameron was to think about the millions of conversations they had when he was growing up.
“I just came out of practice and just broke down,” Rooks said. “Wish I could talk to my pops, but I see him in my dreams talking to me. I remember all of his words now and what he said back in the day and that always helps.”
If there was anything the son took away from the father, it was to “trust the process” and apply happiness to everything.
“Enjoy life. Stay positive don’t be negative,” Rooks said. “Sometimes my dad is a negative guy, but whenever it came to me, it was always positive and telling me that he believes in me.”
To many, Saturday was just another victory for Arizona—no big deal—but instead it was an evening for Kameron to play in the same arena his dad played in for four seasons, and bring a light of joy back into his life regardless of the outcome of the game.
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