Like many hoops-obsessed kids from Tucson, Talbott Denny’s childhood largely centered on Arizona men’s basketball.
Sure, there was school to attend and movies to see and books to read, but nothing piqued a kid’s imagination quite like a perfectly placed Jason Gardner bounce pass to Hassan Adams or a Salim Stoudamire step-back.
Denny rarely missed a home game. His parents have held season tickets at McKale Center for as long as he can remember.
Most games Denny went to growing up ended in easy Arizona wins, as that was the norm under Lute Olson up until his final years.
As a high-schooler, Denny continued to go to as many games as he could. He witnessed the nascent years of Sean Miller’s tenure.
In Miller’s first season as head coach, Arizona hosted some no-name school from the south, expecting an easy December win before Pac-10 Conference play kicked in.
But midway through the second half, the sub .500 Wildcats looked up at the scoreboard and saw that this cupcake opponent was on top.
“Are you kidding me?” Denny thought to himself. “How are we losing to Lipscomb?”
Arizona ended up defeating Lipscomb University on a Nic Wise buzzer beater.
For Denny, then a junior at Salpointe Catholic High School, the game offered him his first look at the school he’d commit to a year later.
He is set to graduate from Lipscomb with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Denny will then return to Tucson, where he’ll join the basketball program this summer as a fifth-year graduate transfer. He plans to pursue a master’s degree at the Eller College of Management.
His four years with the Bison were marked by increased playing time until his last year, when he tore a shoulder labrum in fall practices.
Denny still managed to avidly follow UA hoops while at Lipscomb, whether on TV or through the Pac-12 Networks website.
“My teammates would be like, ‘Wow dude, you’re following Arizona when you’re actually playing division one too,’” Denny said.
When it came time for him to decide where he might want to finish his college basketball career, Arizona originally seemed like a longshot, as the coaching staff was hesitant of giving him a scholarship.
It was Denny’s former club coach, Brian Peabody—now the head coach at Pima Community College—who worked with Arizona’s Miller on saving Denny an offer.
In early April, he started receiving interest from other division one programs including Ball State University, California State University, Bakersfield and University of Evansville.
“I think that’s when Arizona was like, ‘All right,’” he said.
Denny said that he and Miller have had some preliminary conversations as to what he can contribute to the program.
Miller compared Denny’s situation to one of another recent Tucsonan-turned-Wildcat, Matt Korcheck.
“[Miller] said he can see me like a Korcheck type of deal, where I come in for a couple minutes when somebody is in foul trouble or something like that,” Denny said. “He told me, ‘I want you to be a role model and a leader for the younger guys who we’re bringing in.’”
Denny, who called himself a “sideline coach” this past season at Lipscomb, said he believes he’ll be able to fill that senior-leader type role that Arizona is lacking.
The fact he received such a shot at the school he’s forever supported is still a startling feeling.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling coming back home,” Denny said. “It’s pretty cool.”
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