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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

As freshmen slump, seniors pick up slack

LOS ANGELES — Before the 2011-12 season began, fans and analysts alike drooled over the future of Arizona basketball.

With Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol choosing Arizona over other top programs, the Wildcats and their four freshmen were dubbed Pac-12 rising stars with a shot at a conference title.

Arizona was ranked No. 16 in the country in the preseason, in large part thanks to the star rankings attached to the names of Arizona’s young guns.

The UA’s Freshmen Fab Four were expected to put Arizona on their backs and walk to the NCAA Tournament.

Fast forward to March 8, in Staples Center.

Turner, Arizona’s top recruit didn’t have his name announced with Arizona’s starters as the Wildcats prepared to play their biggest game of the year against UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament.

Not only was Turner not in the starting lineup, he wasn’t in the arena thanks to an indefinite suspension that put an end to a disappointing freshman season.

Sean Miller’s fourth-best recruit, Sidiki Johnson, didn’t even have the opportunity to try his hand at defending Josh Smith or attempt to limit the Wear twins. Instead, Sidiki Johnson is not even an Arizona Wildcat anymore as he preps to transfer to Providence.

As for the other two, Chol played only two minutes while coming up with a huge and-one late in the game, and Nick Johnson scored only five points but picked up four momentum-changing blocks in transition.

At the end of the game, Chol and Nick Johnson only accounted for eight of Arizona’s 66 points.
With the freshmen stealing the spotlight in the preseason, it was easy to forget about Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill.

On Thursday afternoon with Arizona’s backs against the wall, it was Arizona’s trio of veteran leaders who once again delivered as they have all season.

It was Fogg, Hill and Perry who sat side by side next to Miller at the postgame podium. It was Fogg, Hill and Perry who fielded all the questions in the locker room after the game.

At 6-foot-6 Hill played all but 15 seconds of the game and racked up 25 points and 12 boards against the biggest team in the conference. At 6-foot-7, Perry battled the 6-foot-10, 305-pound Smith and finished with 16 points and 12 boards while going 12-of-13 from the line.

Fogg scored 13 points in 37 minutes while holding Lazeric Jones to 5-of-16 shooting, making UCLA’s top guard 6-for-28 against the senior guard in their final two meetings.

Arizona’s leaders combined for 54 points. The rest of Arizona’s team — 12.

“These three guys are the heart and soul of our team, “ Miller said, pointing to his trio of veterans. “I don’t know if any of us or any coach could ask more from these types of players than we’ve asked for of Kyle, Solomon, and Jesse. They really have put our team on their back.”

Yes, Arizona’s future may be bright with the likes of Johnson, Chol and Turner, assuming he stays a Wildcat. Sure, fans have a lot to look forward to with Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski coming to Tucson next season.

But right now it’s about Fogg, Hill and Perry.

Maybe if we gave them five-star ratings back in October, people would have realized what they meant to Arizona basketball, because without them, the Wildcats wouldn’t even make the NIT.

— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatHoops .

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