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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A UA basketball family reunion

    Former Wildcat point guard Sean Elliot plays keep away with former guard Miles Simon at the Lute Olson All-Star Classic yesterday afternoon in McKale Center. The event reunited former basketball players from the 1997 national championship team as well as players from throughout the Olson era.
    Former Wildcat point guard Sean Elliot plays keep away with former guard Miles Simon at the Lute Olson All-Star Classic yesterday afternoon in McKale Center. The event reunited former basketball players from the 1997 national championship team as well as players from throughout the Olson era.

    Correction: Yesterday’s men’s basketball cutline (“”A UA basketball family reunion””) misidentified former basketball players Sean Elliot and current basketball assistant Miles Simon as Gilbert Arenas and Hassan Adams. The Wildcat regrets the error.

    As the seconds ticked down at the Lute Olson All-Star Classic Shootout yesterday, 1997 Most Outstanding Player Miles Simon had a little fun with 2001 standout Richard Jefferson as they passed midcourt.

    “”2001, you all win it? You all win it?”” Simon asked of Jefferson’s UA squad, which lost in the national championship game to Duke.

    As part of a family reunion weekend when the Arizona basketball program celebrated its crowning achievement, that was nothing more than a little good-natured trash talk from big brother to little brother.

    Simon and Jefferson joined players from every era of the UA basketball family over the past 24 years under head coach Lute Olson to take part in the weekend’s festivities honoring the 1997 national championship team, culminating in the game played in front of 8,101 in McKale Center.

    Besides a smattering of ’97 players, the teams’ rosters included the likes of Pete Williams and Eddie Smith from Olson’s first team, Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott from the 1988 Final Four team, Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves from the 1994 Final Four team and Gilbert Arenas and Jefferson from the 2001 Final Four team.

    “”It was unbelievable,”” said ’97 guard Jason Terry, now a Dallas Maverick. “”You’re seeing the chemistry, and I looked at not only us but if you looked at Sean and you looked at Damon and Khalid, you can tell who played with who.””

    At halftime – when Olson announced that the players had donated $50,000 for the UA Cancer Center in the name of Olson’s late wife, Bobbi – the members of the ’97 squad were introduced to raucous applause.

    That year’s quintet of Terry, Simon, Eugene Edgerson, Bennett Davison and A.J. Bramlett shared the floor together during the third and fourth quarters for the Blue All-Stars, who won 132-124.

    “”I’ll tell you one thing you can see with the ’97 team, those guys know how to pass the ball,”” Olson said. “”It was fun to see that team together.””

    The weekend started on Friday when Jefferson announced that he pledged to donate $3.5 million toward a construction project already underway that includes a $14 million basketball and volleyball practice facility. The $3.5 million is believed to be the largest donation by a current pro athlete to his alma mater and will put Jefferson’s name on the facility.

    Jefferson said he was happy to give back to a school that’s meant so much to him, adding that such a facility would have been very helpful when he played and that it should have a positive impact on recruiting.

    At the press conference, both Jefferson and Olson alluded to the fact that NBA players Jefferson, Arenas, Luke Walton and Channing Frye all attended their teammate Jason Gardner’s wedding last week, along with Olson and former UA assistant coach Jay John, now Oregon’s State’s head coach.

    Despite the busy schedules of all those players and coaches, things like that help them stay connected to the family, Jefferson said.

    “”It means a lot,”” he said. “”Most people don’t understand, a lot of coaches talk about starting a family atmosphere with the team. If you went to Arizona and you were a part of the basketball program and you had coach Olson, then you are a part of the family, and that’s something I learned and that’s something I’m glad to be a part of and I look forward to continuing.””

    Former players made a special effort to meet up this weekend, with Wizards star Arenas coming in late Saturday night after shooting a commercial with NFL quarterback Vince Young.

    “”It’s a family,”” Arenas said. “”No matter what era you came from there’s that respect that you’re part of that Wildcat family, you’re going to be taken care of. It’s great that everybody comes back. It’s an honor to be a part of this program.””

    Kerr, a 15-year NBA veteran who’s now the general manager of the Phoenix Suns, said the strong turnout shows how strong the UA program is, that the players who move on always stay a part of it to continue its tradition.

    During a break from the game, Kerr took the microphone and told the crowd Arizona is the only place where such a game could be staged due to the program’s tradition.

    For Simon, now a UA assistant, that all starts with the father of the family, Olson.

    “”Coach Olson is just a Hall of Fame coach, the best,”” Simon said. “”He’s affected all our lives in one way or another, and that’s the reason we come back, for coach and this university.””

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