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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Top 3 players of the year

    Arizona forward Jordan Hill dunks on Washington center Jon Brockman during a 106-97 UA win against the Huskies on Jan. 29 in McKale Center. Hill, a 6-foot-11 junior, was consistently one of the best players for the mens basketball team.
    Arizona forward Jordan Hill dunks on Washington center Jon Brockman during a 106-97 UA win against the Huskies on Jan. 29 in McKale Center. Hill, a 6-foot-11 junior, was consistently one of the best players for the men’s basketball team.

    1. Hill was men’s hoops’ go-to guy all season long

    For a guy who has only played organized basketball for five years, Jordan Hill certainly made a name for himself in the sport. As it stands today, Hill is a projected top-five NBA Draft pick after forgoing his senior year of eligibility to test his skills in the professional ranks.

    “”My upside is ridiculous,”” Hill told reporters in his final interview as a Wildcat this spring.

    Hill evolved from a raw, athletic player to a dominant big man in the Pacific 10 Conference during his time in Tucson. The 6-foot-10 junior from Atlanta led the Wildcats to a 21-14 record by averaging 18.3 points and 11.0 rebounds in 35.7 minutes per game, with 58 total blocks on the season.

    UA interim head coach Russ Pennell’s 1-1-3 defense allowed Hill to avoid the foul troubles that plagued him during his sophomore season in a man-to-man defense. By staying on the floor longer as the Wildcats’ dominant big man, Hill also developed a mid-range 15-foot jumper. According to, Hill is a projected No. 4 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    “”It can’t get no better than what your projection is,”” Hill said. “”I felt this is a good time to go on with the opportunity that I have. I had fun here at Arizona. I love the fans, I love the coaches, the program – everything around Arizona and Tucson. I just want to thank everybody and move on.””

    – Bryan Roy

    2. Thomas delivered for football team

    There was little doubt as to who was the best player on the Wildcats’ football team during the 2008 season. If the team needed a big play, it looked to senior wideout Mike Thomas to deliver.

    He did time and time again.

    The DeSoto, Texas, native hauled in 74 catches for 825 yards – both team highs – and four of those grabs resulted in touchdowns. He added 127 yards and one score on 24 rushing attempts. To further showcase the player’s versatility, Thomas racked up 317 yards on 14 kickoff returns and 392 yards on his 29 punt returns. He took two of his punt return efforts to the house – one against Washington and the other against ASU.

    Despite those accomplishments, he capped off his illustrious career in record-setting fashion. Thomas became the Pacific 10 Conference’s all-time leader in receptions as he reeled in his 259th career catch in the closing moments of the team’s win in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl.

    True to his unselfish nature, Thomas deflected praise after the contest.

    “”(The game got) off a little rough for me but we got the victory,”” Thomas said. “”That’s all you need.””

    – Brian Kimball

    3. Chambers’ power surge led softball

    Catcher Stacie Chambers is having one of the most successful offensive seasons the Arizona softball program has ever seen. With a .377 batting average, she tops multiple national offensive leader boards. She currently leads the country in home runs with 28 and RBIs with 86. Chambers is tied for third with Jenny Dalton on the Arizona single-season home run leader board.

    She is tenth all time on the single season RBI list and has hit 43 career home runs during her collegiate career.

    “”I never try to hit home runs,”” Chambers said. “”(I try) Just to make contact. I just try to do what I can to help the team out.””

    She has racked up accolades this season by earning USA Softball National Player of the Week honors, and has won Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Week honors twice this season. The junior is also one of the 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, the most prestigious individual award in Division I softball.

    – Nicole Dimtsios

    4. Patterson notched national championship

    Arizona high jumper Liz Patterson dominated the competition since she upset heavily-favored Sharon Day (from Cal Poly) to win the 2008 Outdoor National Championship. Patterson then carried that momentum into the 2008 indoor season where she went undefeated going into the National Championship meet. Patterson ended up losing the head-to-head duel with eventual champion Destiny Hooker from Texas in what was one of the best battles in NCAA track and field history.

    Patterson transformed herself into a national champion and is looking forward to her chance at repeating as the outdoor champion this June.

    “”It’s a really good feeling that I want to experience again,”” Patterson said. “”My main goal is to win nationals this year.””

    – Vincent Balistreri

    5. Lara Jackson defended national title

    Being the fastest 50-yard freestyle swimmer in the NCAAs is no small accomplishment.

    Holding American records on two relay teams – the 200y freestyle relay and the 400y medley relay – makes Lara Jackson all-the-more impressive.

    The senior set an American record of 21.33 seconds in early December at the Texas Invitational, then reset her time to 21.27 during her lead-off leg in the 200y freestyle relay at the NCAA meet. Then, she only needed a 21.40 time in her individual 50y to win the title.

    “”Anytime you’re setting American records, I think you’re pretty special,”” UA head coach Frank Busch said of Jackson, who also said that she was one of the top five female swimmers he’s coached.

    Critics could argue that the new era of swimsuit technology dropped every swimmer’s times, but the next closest finish in that NCAA meet’s 50y freestyle was 21.80. Beating the competition by nearly half a second in a sprint should be enough evidence to show that her swimming has nothing to do with her suit, and more to do with her unmatched talents.

    – Kevin Zimmerman

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