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Terry jets back for Red-Blue scrimmage

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Daily Wildcat Arizona WIldcats Mens Basketball Red and Blue McKale Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jason Terry was the last former player to be announced at Saturday’s Red-Blue Arizona men’s basketball scrimmage before Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson. He ran onto the court shaking his two-tone blue and white Arizona jersey with his trademark number 31.

The fans went into a frenzy, welcoming back the former Wildcat who claimed an NBA title this June.

Terry’s return to Arizona allowed him to relive his memories as a Wildcat.

“I’m very honored again to be back here today, and winning a championship was good. It was great,” Terry said. “But in ’97, that was special.”

Terry was part of the 1997 national championship team that defeated Kentucky to claim the program’s lone title, before being named a consensus All-American and National Player of the Year in 1999.

He was drafted the No. 10 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Twelve years later, Terry and the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat to win the Larry O’Brien trophy, which he controversially had tattooed on his right bicep before the 2010-2011 season began.

Terry has averaged 16.2 points and 4.7 assists per game in his 12 seasons in the NBA.

Unlike players who have elected to sign contracts with teams overseas because of the current lockout in the NBA, Terry, a player representative for the Mavericks in the now-halted labor talks, said he has no desire to play abroad.

“I’ve been at home in Dallas,” Terry said. “I’ve been to a couple meetings. I was optimistic when this thing started.

“Am I that way now? No. Not as much. But will we have a season? Hopefully.”

Despite the uncertainty in the NBA, Terry said he has great confidence in the future success of Arizona as a program. This faith has grown with the arrival of head coach Sean Miller, Terry said.

He wasn’t always so confident that the gap between Olson and the next generation of Arizona Wildcats would be bridged.

“I had my doubts. I was ready to hang it up and come back and coach myself,” Terry said. “By (Miller) bringing us back, he realizes what it means to be an Arizona Wildcat.”

Although the program has seen changes since Terry left Arizona in 1999, one thing that hasn’t changed is the basketball culture. He said a main reason the Wildcats have been able to get back to a top-tier program recognition as quickly as they have is the diligent work of Miller.

“Coach Miller has done an outstanding job of bringing in good class individuals, and they’re talented,” Terry said. “That’s all it takes.

“When you have a good mix like that and a coach that’s really passionate about what he’s doing, you can tell that Arizona’s back.”

5 questions with NBA Champion and Dallas Maverick Jason Terry

On what winning an NBA Championship means to him:

“I can tell all the fans here in Tucson that it was nothing like ’97 when we won it. We were young kids then. I’ll still never forget that feeling. It’s great. It’s a blessing.”

On if he still wears the opponent’s jersey before he plays:

“Always. Always. It’s something, I’m very superstitious. I’ll never change it. That’s superstition started right here at Arizona.”

On his future as a coach:

“I’m serious about it. I love coaching at this level because this is where you can really see basketball at its purest form. Guys that have an opportunity to take the game to the next level, I know what it takes for them to do that; and get an education at the same time. If that opportunity presents itself to me, I’d be more than happy to get it done.”

On what he said to Arizona’s players before the Red-Blue Game:

“I didn’t spend a lot of time with them, but obviously my words to them is ‘Prepare every day. Every day you step on this court, do something to make yourself better. To wear this Arizona across your jersey, it means something. So act like it does. And when you walk around, just know that you have a lot of people in here rooting for you. And they’ve brought it back.’”

On if he thinks the NBA will have a season this year:

“I hope we can get this thing resolved because it affects more than just the players. You’ve got a lot of working-class people that are dependent on us to have a season so they can have jobs to provide for their families. For us, we just need to get a deal done — one that’s fair for both sides — and get out here and do what we do best. And that’s play basketball.”

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