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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



Kevin Brost
Kevin Brost / Arizona Daily WIldcat Portraits of football player Fabbians Ebbele and shots of football players fiending over “cookie day”.

Multi-sport athletes like the NFL’s Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez set the standard for athletes making the transition from the hardwood to the gridiron.

At Arizona, starting right tackle and former hoopster Fabbians Ebbele hopes to be another basketball-to-football success story.

The 6-foot-8, 305-pound redshirt freshman is arguably the Wildcats’ most imposing player, yet his basketball background gives him more than just brute force to use on opposing defensive ends.

“He’s very athletic for his size. As a tackle that’s something I appreciate too, being able to seal off the end for me,” said quarterback Nick Foles. “Being a lineman is all about being quick, getting off the ball quickly with your feet. Playing basketball, you have to have decent footwork or your going to fall all over the place.”

Basketball was Ebbele’s first passion as he picked up the sport in third grade and went on to play his first two seasons of high school. It wasn’t just any high school, either.

The Chicago native played at national basketball powerhouse Simeon High School — with NBA MVP Derrick Rose, nonetheless.

“I was there with him. We all practiced together,” Ebbele said. “He’s a freak athlete, man. It’s crazy.”

After starting his sophomore year on the gridiron, Ebbele turned in his high-tops for good. Offers began to pour in and Ebbele gave up his hoop dreams for a chance at college football.

“I got into football heavy and started my sophomore year so that was my ticket right there,” Ebbele said. “I just focused on football and left basketball alone.”

Although his basketball career is over, it was on the hardwood that Ebbele developed the lateral quickness and explosiveness that he hopes to use to his advantage on Saturdays.

“It got my footwork really good, and it carried over to football,” Ebbele said. “Lateral movements and stuff like that are a lot easier.”

Ebbele’s a cog in the Wildcats’ revamped offensive line that features one combined start. Despite his lack of experience, the massive Ebbele is using his basketball background — and 7-foot-6 wingspan — to help the offensive line disprove the doubters, and give Foles and the Wildcats offense all the time they need to use their bevy of weapons.

“Fabbians is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said starting center Kyle Quinn. “He’s had a tremendous camp, and he’s finally learning how to use those long arms he’s got.”

But it’s not only basketball and Ebbele’s massive wingspan that’s helped him become UA’s starting right tackle after redshirting last season. Foles called Ebbele a character and said that he could “easily do stand-up comedy.” Ebbele was the emcee at Arizona’s annual training camp talent show and was “absolutely hilarious,” according to Foles.

It’s that jovial, energetic personality that Foles expects to translate onto the field and keep him standing.

“I think a guy like that at right tackle, if he translates that to the field it means he’s always having fun,” Foles said. “He can play with that type of energy, that’s something that can be special. I really like that about Fabbians.”

Ebbele constantly keeps his teammates laughing, while still showing off his basketball skills in the offseason.

“Oh yeah, I’ve still got to get out there and show them who’s the man,” Ebbele said.

So who does the man play like?

“Compare me to D-Wade,” Ebbele said jokingly. “No man, I ain’t that fast. I just got an all-around game, I can do everything.”

Foles, who also played basketball in high school, was quick to compliment Ebbele’s game on the court. He acknowledged his three-point range and quickness for a big man, but wasn’t ready to crown him as the next Dwyane Wade just yet.

“Maybe more of a Shawn Bradley,” Foles said with a laugh.

Ebbele has yet to play a game at Arizona, and he’s somewhat of a raw talent full of untapped potential. But he’s proven his worth through camp and figures to have a bright future as a Wildcat, his offensive line coach Robert Anae said.

“I see a committed player that’s doing his best to buy all-in,” Anae said. “I don’t know what the limit is, where the roof is. I just know that if the attitude is ‘I’m in this all the way,’ then I do believe that potential is pretty high.”

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