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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Michael Dickerson: Lost man among 1997 Arizona basketbll championship team

Arizona Athletics

(Arizona Athletics

Editors note: Michael Dickerson and the rest of the 1997 National Championship team will be in attendance at the Red-Blue Game in McKale Center on Friday for the 20th anniversary celebration of Arizona basketball’s lone title.

There is bound to be an unsung hero who gets forgotten in the shuffle on a college basketball team loaded with potential Player of the Year candidates. Michael Dickerson was that man for the 1997 Arizona Wildcats.

Dickerson was the team’s leading scorer at 18 points per game in his first of two breakout seasons in Tucson.

The unsung hero primarily came off the bench during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He averaged 11.9 points per game his sophomore year in the 1995-1996 season, but earned only two starts over the team’s final 19 contests.

Arizona was down its two leading scorers from the year before during Dickerson’s junior campaign in 1996-1997. The returning leading scorer, Miles Simon, was academically ineligible to begin the year. Mike Bibby and Jason Terry are revered for their roles as a star freshman and sixth man, respectively, but it was Dickerson who led the way for the Wildcats throughout the regular season.

The 6-foot-5 guard wasted no time asserting himself as the team’s leader for the first half of the season. Dickerson led the Wildcats to a surprise victory over the University of North Carolina in the 1996 Tip-Off Classic. He went 12-for-22 from the field and finished with a then career-high 31 points. Dickerson nailed seven 3-pointers in the game.

He tallied five 30-point games throughout the season and was arguably the Wildcats’ most explosive scorer. Arizona head coach Lute Olson knew Dickerson was a hard-working and special student-athlete during his recruitment.

Related: Jason Terry learned from freshman year

“He has the best first step of anybody I saw this summer,” Olson told the Arizona Daily Star following Dickerson’s recruitment. “He’s a gym rat. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a player more like that than he is.”

High praise from a man who recruited speedsters such as Sean Elliott and Damon Stoudamire.

Dickerson was the only Wildcat in the 1997 season to be named a first-team all Pac-12 player. He averaged 20.1 points per game in the Pac-10 Conference that season and was Arizona’s hottest player entering the NCAA Tournament.

He led the way in the opening round for the Wildcats with a team high 16 points in their victory against South Alabama. His biggest contribution, however, came in the form of retribution against No. 1-seed Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen. The Jayhawks ousted the Wildcats in the same round just a season before Arizona’s title run.

Dickerson led a furious comeback over the Jayhawks in the 1996 Sweet Sixteen that put the Wildcats on top 79-76 with under two minutes to play. Kansas won the game in the final minute, but Dickerson and the Wildcats would not be denied in 1997.

The guard led the Wildcats with 20 points in their Sweet Sixteen victory over Kansas, and the rest is, of course, history.

Dickerson came back for his senior season in 1997-1998 and led Arizona in scoring at 18 points per game for a second straight year.

He still ranks in the top 10 in program history for career points (eighth, with 1,791 points), career field goals (sixth, with 668 field goals) and single-season points (ninth, with 642 points).

The Houston Rockets drafted Dickerson 14th overall in the 1998 NBA draft. After his rookie season, he was traded to the Vancouver Grizzlies, linking up with national championship teammate Bibby.

Related: The purest point guard in UA history, Bibby was silent leader on ’97 team

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter.

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