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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Former Wildcat Jefferson to donate $3.5 million for UA practice facility

    Former Wildcat star Richard Jefferson plays in the Lute Olson All-Star Classic Shootout Sunday in McKale Center. Jefferson pledged to donate $3.5 million for the schools new practice facility, which is believed to be the most ever by a current pro athlete to his alma mater.
    Former Wildcat star Richard Jefferson plays in the Lute Olson All-Star Classic Shootout Sunday in McKale Center. Jefferson pledged to donate $3.5 million for the school’s new practice facility, which is believed to be the most ever by a current pro athlete to his alma mater.

    Former Arizona basketball star Richard Jefferson pledged to donate $3.5 million to the UA athletic department Friday, which is believed to be the most by a current pro athlete to his alma mater and one of the largest individual donations to the department ever.

    Jefferson’s donation will be the lead gift toward a construction project already underway that includes a $14 million basketball/volleyball practice facility.

    “”I’m just really happy to be able to give back to the school that’s meant so much,”” said Jefferson, a Phoenix native who plays for the New Jersey Nets.

    UA athletics director Jim Livengood called it an “”incredible red-letter day”” for the program, as he expects the donation in a critical period of the building process to have a big impact on future student-athletes and other donors for some time.

    “”If there’s ever a great, great day to be a Wildcat it’s today,”” he said. “”To say we’re excited goes way beyond any words. This is a tremendous day for the University of Arizona.””

    The facility, which is expected to be completed in September of 2008, will relieve the burden on McKale Center, with the men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball teams needing time to practice and play games. The squads will not have to rely so much on Bear Down Gym and its poor acoustics that take away from practice sessions.

    Jefferson said it would definitely have been helpful to have that practice facility when he played for the Wildcats from 1998-2001.

    “”You see the impact that it will have on recruiting, just getting more athletes, being able to work out in more space, the flexibility with the time, which in turn will help the students with their classes,”” Jefferson said of the building that will be named after him. “”All these things are really going to help a lot.””

    Jefferson, who agreed to a six-year, $78 million contract extension with the Nets in 2004, feels like his money will be well spent, even if it’s used in some other areas besides just the practice facility.

    “”That’s one of the reasons why it’s so easy to give because you just know that whatever gift you give will be taken very seriously and will be used the way it’s supposed to,”” he said.

    Jefferson jokingly said he made the decision to prevent former Wildcat star Gilbert Arenas from getting his name on the practice facility. When Arizona’s fundraisers approached him about a donation, he said their biggest selling point was saying Arenas could be next on the list of potential donors.

    At that point, Jefferson told them, “”Whatever the number is we’ll figure it out,”” he said.

    That led to the gift for the practice facility Olson called one of the most critical things the athletic department has needed since he arrived at Arizona in 1983.

    “”For him to do what he’s committed to doing now is just unbelievable,”” Olson said. “”Needless to say, we need that practice facility. It means so much to so many athletes, not just the basketball program.””

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