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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats and Longhorns know each other well

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The No. 16 Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team took on the Memphis Tigers in second round action of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 18 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. The Wildcats held on for a 77-75 win.

TULSA, Okla – The world of high school basketball with all its All-American camps and AAU tournaments makes for a well-connected group of basketball players.

Comparing schools with top recruiting classes makes those connections appear even deeper.

Such is the case for the Arizona Wildcats and Texas Longhorns, who have crossed paths on the recruiting trail a number of times. When they hit the court tomorrow in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, it’ll all be forgotten, but the times have changed and the familiarity between players isn’t uncommon in this day in age.

“”The one thing that’s so different about today is, I feel like every player on our team knows every players on the other team just because of the way that the travel teams and that’s organized,”” UA head coach Sean Miller said. “”They’re playing nationally in spring, nationally in the summer and sometimes even in the fall.

“”So you have so much familiarity between players that back in the day, when I played, you didn’t even talk to the other team,”” he added. “”These guys, they know each other. They’ve played against each other and sometimes with each other.””

The big storyline has been the friendship between Los Angeles-area friends Derrick Williams and Jordan Hamilton, but here’s a quick rundown of every other link we could find between the two programs.


Mo’s “”little brother””

Arizona point guard Momo Jones calls freshman Longhorn Tristan Thompson his little brother.

Maybe a more-fitting description of the relationship between the 6-foot-8 Thompson to Jones is more like a little, big brother.

“”I love him to death,”” Jones said Saturday. “”Tomorrow it will kind of be a love-hate relationship. Hopefully, I got the bragging rights to say I beat him.””

“”He’s one of those kids that’s great to have in your corner,”” Jones added. “”He’s like a little kid. That’s one of the things I love about him.””

Jones met Thompson, a lanky and athletic big man out of Ontario, Canada, at a basketball camp in high school. Thompson said he’s already alerted his Texas teammates about Jones’ ability to drive to the basket, but Arizona’s starting point guard said he’s not worried.

However, Thompson’s seven blocks against Oakland Friday might say otherwise, as should the frequent questions about his NBA Draft status.

“”He goes up there, he rebounds and that’s how he gets a lot of his points,”” Jones said. “”He goes in night in, night out, and he plays as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen.””

UA freshman Daniel Bejarano also knows Thompson, who he roomed with in the NBA Top 100 Camp.


The draw of family

Whether players admit it or not, staying close to home affects the recruiting practice in a huge way.

Take Arizona freshman Daniel Bejarano and Texas senior Gary Johnson as examples.

Bejarano, out of Phoenix’s North High School, originally committed to Texas, but after the death of his

father, elected to stay closer to home.

He admitted that maybe it was a rushed decision, but in the end he doesn’t have regrets. Most importantly, he knows that either situation would have worked out.

“”Everyone wanted me to go to their school,”” Bejarano said. “”I think I should have just calmed down a little bit.

“”I will always have respect for Texas,”” he added. “”I always still think about going to Texas. I don’t regret anything. They’re always in my mind, always in my heart. They were there when my father passed away, gave me a phone call.””

For Houston, Texas native Johnson, it also came down to Arizona and Texas. The senior nearly committed to Arizona during his junior year in high school but never took a visit to Tucson.

“”I was really close to choosing Arizona,”” said Johnson, a defensive specialist who committed early in his junior year of high school. “”My grandmother ended up getting diagnosed with cancer, and that’s when I made my decision to go to Texas.””

Johnson is also good friends with Arizona’s Dondre Wise, who he’s known through the AAU circuit since the seventh grade.

And with the two squads meeting a game into the NCAA Tournament, it gives a glimpse of what type of coaches succeed in both the postseason and in the recruiting circuit.

Arizona’s Miller and Texas’ Rick Barnes both fall into the success category.

Said Bejarano: “”As a similarity, Miller and Barnes … when they want to make a point, they make their point. Players just have to accept coaching. You can’t go soft on nobody. I would give them both that.””

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