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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona’s first-ever final four team honored at Red-Blue scrimmage

Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Steve Kerr stood at center court in McKale Center and reminisced about the 1988 men’s basketball team. That team was the first in UA history to make a Final Four, and on Sunday at the annual Red-Blue game the team was honored.

Kerr, a 5-time NBA champion — with 3 coming from his time with the Chicago Bulls — was a leader on that team and reminisced about a fan, whom he saw in the crowd when the team celebrated its final four berth back in 1988, holding a sign with the words, “We’ll never forget.”

Twenty-five years later, the accomplishments of that team are still evident as they marked the birth of an elite college basketball program. And the Wildcat faithful have definitely not forgotten, as cheers reverberated throughout the sold out McKale Center Sunday as the members of that 1987-1988 team were honored.

“The fact that people can remember a group from 25 years ago and have this much enthusiasm is unbelievable,” said Craig McMillan, a senior guard on that team.

While the Red-Blue game featured several notable events, including the induction of former Wildcat Andre Iguodala into the Ring of Honor, the 25th anniversary of the 1988’s Final Four run took the cake in terms of applause.

All of the big names made the trip back to their place of dominance — from college and NBA greats Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr to baseball star Kenny Lofton to six-time Grammy winner Harvey Mason Jr.

“I don’t think you could have a group of guys, a better chemistry,” said Lofton, a member of the team before he went on to become an MLB all-star. “Guys that get along better than that group. And I think it carried over onto the court and it’s carried over after playing together.

“I think it’s just the fact that if you even see the guy, if you haven’t seen him for a year or so, it’s just the same feeling like [when] you played with him, like you’re still playing with him. I think it’s just the camaraderie we had then.”

Arizona went 35-3 in the 1987-88 season, including 17-1 in Pac-10 play, and were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This was the first UA team to be ranked No. 1 overall and to win 30 games.

“I think they were the best team in the country,” former head coach Lute Olson said. “The problem is, in the NCAA [tournament] you have one night that isn’t a great night and you’re history. But I think they could have played those teams 10 times and beaten them nine.”

Elliott, who was a consensus All-American and had his No. 32 retired, reminisced about the “best time” of his life.

“To be on a team like that where you had so many great people, great friends and to accomplish something at the time was unprecedented,” Elliott said. “It was very exciting and we’re all just proud to be a part of it.”

Elliott was born and raised in Tucson and he said he remembered attending Arizona games while he was in high school, that the stadium was so empty fans could move from the upper deck down to the front row.

Now, thanks in part to the success of the 1988 team, all 14,365 seats in McKale Center were filled for fans to watch a glorified scrimmage and a quick dunk contest.

“We will build our program through the eyes of everything that’s happened in the past before we came,” head coach Sean Miller said.

“The great players, the great teams— learning from what they did right, and they did a lot of things right.

“Looking at the 1988 team, and one of the things about honoring them, is how well each of them is doing 25 years later. It’s amazing.”

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