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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Terry’s sacrifice pays off

    Wildcat Flashback: Jason Terry

    PHOENIX – In the year Arizona won its lone national championship, the season did not start out the way Arizona head coach Lute Olson had planned. The team’s future Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, former guard Miles Simon, was academically ineligible for the first semester and would miss the first 11 games of the season.

    Enter then-sophomore guard Jason Terry.

    The Seattle, Wash., native stepped in and helped lead the Wildcats to a 9-2 start. With Simon back, however, Olson had a dilemma.

    Terry walked into Olson’s office and said, “”Coach, we need to have Miles back in the starting lineup.””

    “”Yeah, I know that, but who are we going to take out of the starting lineup,”” Olson asked Terry.

    “”Me, I’m the only one who can handle that,”” Terry said to Olson’s surprise. “”I know I’ll be a good sixth man, and I’ll do whatever I need to do.””

    Terry would go back to the bench and go on to average 10.6 points per game over the course of the season, never uttering a word about his role or a lack of playing time.

    “”That was his attitude,”” Olson said.

    Said Terry: “”That was sacrificing, and all championship teams must have a point in the season where somebody makes a certain sacrifice and that year it was me. For the betterment of the team, I thought I would bring more energy off the bench, and we ended up winning a championship.””

    Ten years ago, Terry was looking forward to what would turn out to be a magical season for Arizona. On Thursday night, Terry stood up from his locker at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, and with a smile wider than Sabino Canyon, he received a bear hug from the man who molded Terry into a national player of the year.

    “”We’ve had a lot of great team players,”” Olson said. “”I don’t think there’s anybody that can be characterized as a greater team player than Jason was.””

    After a successful but uneventful junior season, in which Terry once again served the sixth man role, he was ready to rise out of the shadows of Simon and former guards Mike

    It’s going to be retired forever in the heart of the fans and in my heart, so it’s all good. Everybody knows what I did for the city and for the university.

    – Jason Terry
    Mavericks guard

    Bibby and Michael Dickerson, all of whom went on to the NBA. Terry catapulted himself onto the national scene, earning National Player of the Year honors from CBS, Sports Illustrated and Rawlings, while scoring 21.9 points per game, in his first season as a full-time starter. He was the first player to lead the Pacific 10 Conference in points, assists and steals since former Oregon State guard Gary Payton in 1988-1989.

    Asked his favorite moment as Wildcat, Terry said he has two: “”1997, winning the championship, and ’99, winning the player of the year award, are my greatest experiences.””

    Although Arizona lost in the first round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament in his senior season, Terry cemented himself in the lottery of the NBA Draft, where he was chosen 10th overall by the Atlanta Hawks.

    Terry gained immediate notoriety at the next level, averaging 14 points and seven assists per game in his rookie season, but team accomplishments were much harder to come by.

    The Hawks were mired in a rebuilding effort that never got off the ground. In the five seasons Terry played in Atlanta, the Hawks never surpassed 35 wins under three different coaches.

    Terry never felt comfortable with the constant losing and yearned to play for a contender. He would get his wish in 2004, as the Hawks shipped him to the Dallas Mavericks.

    The Mavs elected not to re-sign point guard Steve Nash, who signed with the Phoenix Suns, and Terry had the unenviable task of replacing the fan favorite who helped turn Dallas into a winning organization.

    Now on a winning team, Terry said there are similarities between the Mavericks and the Wildcats.

    “”Each team, franchise or university, prides itself on a tradition of winning, being professional on and off the court,”” he said.

    The Mavericks have all but locked up the third-best record in the NBA, but because of the NBA playoff format, Dallas will likely receive the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs. The Mavericks’ hopes for an NBA crown may lie in the hands of Terry, who is once again defecting to his more prominent teammate forward Dirk Nowitzki.

    Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson said he thinks Terry must play a major role, though, for the Mavs to have a chance.

    “”He’s a big key,”” Johnson said. “”He might be the key.””

    Tucson forever

    Once Terry migrated from rainy Seattle to sunny Tucson, he fell in love with the city. After his NBA career is over, Terry’s plans focus on living in the Tucson Foothills, “”around La Paloma.””

    In fact, Olson and Terry’s chat following Thursday’s game centered around Terry looking for a house as early as this summer.

    “”I’m going to make my home in Arizona, in Tucson, when it’s all said and done,”” Terry said. “”I love the city.””

    No stranger to Tucson, Terry comes back every summer and plays in the Tucson Summer Pro League and runs basketball camps, one of which is tentatively scheduled for August, Terry said.

    “”I’m still connected,”” Terry said. “”It’s a family to me.””

    Olson said Terry’s mother stays close to the program as well. She goes to the Wildcats games in Washington, even once traveling to Pullman, Wash., to watch Arizona take on Washington State.

    Her son keeps in contact with the program as well.

    “”Whenever we ask him to come down, whatever the situation may be, he always (comes),”” Olson said.

    Hall of Fame?

    During his junior and senior seasons, Terry received $11,000 from two sports agents, for which Arizona self-imposed sanctions and forfeited the money from its only NCAA Tournament game in 1999. Although Terry was named national payer of the year by more than two publications, a feat that qualifies him for a jersey retirement ceremony, Terry’s jersey will not hang from the rafters in McKale Center.

    “”It’s going to be retired forever in the heart of the fans and in my heart, so it’s all good,”” Terry said. “”Everybody knows what I did for the city and for the university.””

    He still holds out hope that Arizona will one day change its mind.

    “”I’ll continue to go to the summer leagues, come back and help out the basketball program in any way I can,”” Terry said. “”Lord willing, one day hopefully that jersey will go up.””

    ASU rivalry

    In the game against the Suns, Terry had three enemies: The Suns, former ASU guard Eddie House, who now plays for the Suns, and Casey Smith, a former Devil and the Mavericks trainer.

    “”Every time, (House) already knows we can’t stand the Sun Devils,”” Terry said. “”As a matter of fact, our trainer is a Sun Devil, and I can’t stand him half the time.””

    The Washington pipeline

    The Pacific Northwest has been a recruiting hotspot for Arizona. Terry is one of three notables from Seattle, a trend started by Dickerson, continued by Terry and currently involving freshman forward Marcus Williams.

    “”It’s that Northwest,”” Terry said. “”Damon started it. He’s from Portland, two hours away, and then Mike D, and Marcus. It rains all the time, ain’t nowhere else to be but the gym. We’re molding them up here, and hopefully we have another one coming out pretty soon. But Marcus is definitely going to be the leader of that team, and he showed me a lot this year, and if he continues to work like I know he will, he’s going to be one of the greatest Wildcats to ever play.””

    Point Guard U

    One of the reasons Arizona has come to be known Point Guard U, Terry had some advice for the current point guard, Mustafa Shakur, who has declared for the NBA Draft but has not hired an agent.

    “”Take your time and make your decision wisely and relish every moment being on campus,”” Terry said. “”I’d tell him to stay all four years, but I don’t know his family situation or his financial background, so people make decisions for different reasons, and I’m hoping he makes it for the better.””

    Wildcats’ NBA success

    There are 10 former Wildcats in the NBA and more are on the way to basketball’s highest level, but who deserves the credit?

    “”They make good pros, and I think you have to give a lot of credit to coach Olson because he’s done a heck of a job with those guys,”” said Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson.

    Olson points the finger at the rest of his coaching staff.

    “”I think our entire staff works hard for them,”” he said. “”A lot of times I get the credit, but really a lot of the credit goes to the guys who are doing the individual workouts with them, and the other thing is we recruit guys who are coachable. They come here and they know what they wanna do, but they’re willing to pay the price for what it’s going to take if they’re going to make that jump to the NBA.””

    Terry agreed.

    “”It’s all work ethic from the guys,”” he said. “”From the day they step on campus they made a point that they were going to become better basketball players, and with the help of coach Olson and the Wildcat brotherhood, we continue to work on our game and continue to get better.

    Said Olson: “”We get players, but the key is we get great people who are willing to work and do the things that we feel is necessary for them if they’re going to get there.””

    Olson can often be found at NBA arenas looking on as former Wildcats appear on one-third of the league’s rosters. When he’s not there, Olson is reading the papers.

    “”I check the box score every morning,”” he said.

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