Five UA basketball seniors set to graduate

Mike Schmitz

Head coach Sean Miller, sounding like the father figure he has become for his players, spoke glowingly about his diverse senior class at his Tuesday press conference in McKale Center.

He mentioned Brendon Lavender’s shooting, Kyle Fogg’s defense, Jesse Perry’s toughness, Alex Jacobson’s scout teamwork and Dondre Wise’s future in coaching.

But what Miller was most proud of has nothing to do with basketball. All five of Arizona’s seniors are on pace to graduate in May, much to the delight of their head coach.

“I give them tremendous credit,” Miller said. “Very few programs have five seniors in one class and to have all five of them projected to graduate on time this spring is a great accomplishment for them. I also think it’s a great accomplishment for our program.”

That “great accomplishment” comes to a program in need of a facelift in the graduation rate department. Among all the Sweet 16 teams from a season ago, Arizona basketball sat in dead last with a 20 percent graduation rate that ranked 321st in the NCAA.

Arizona also finished dead last in the Pac-12 in football graduation rates from a season ago, further contributing to Arizona’s reputation as a school that doesn’t graduate its players.

But UA athletic director Greg Byrne and his staff have worked to improve the Wildcats’ academic image, and the graduation of Fogg, Perry, Lavender, Wise and Jacobson has Arizona moving in the right direction.

“Our academic support staff has worked tirelessly over the last three or four years and these guys have invested a lot academically,” Miller said. “Our senior class is really filled with a lot of quality people.”