A View from the Zoo: Arizona Basketball, A Look Back and A Look Forward

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26: Derrick Williams #23 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after a dunk against of the Connecticut Huskies during the west regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 26, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Wow, what a season it was.  An Elite 8 appearance a year or two before people thought it was realistically possible, brought back memories from the 'hey' days of the Arizona Wildcats.

With the Honda Center being called "McKale West" it shows that Arizona is a basketball school first and foremost.  It also shows that those few years that attendance was down was an aberration, because Arizona is back.

Now with the season over, it is as good time as ever to do a season rewind as well as a fast-forward.

REWIND:


Coming into this season, I think it was safe to say a return to the NCAA tournament was expected.  What I do not think was expected was getting all the way to the Elite 8 by way of beating Texas and Duke.

30 wins, 8 losses.

The first time since the 2004-2005 season that the Wildcats have reached the 30 win plateau, which coincidentally, was the last time Arizona reached the Elite 8 as well.

Derrick Williams:

Is there anything we could ask more from him?  He did everything any fan could ask of.  He single handily brought excitement back to Tucson.  (If you want more, here's his Pac-10 highlight tape from Arizona Athletics.)


He is an AP second team All-American.  How he did not make first team is beyond me and with his games in the tournament, some writers are re-thinking how they voted.

Jeff Goodman, writer for Foxsports.com tweeted this:

The AP First Team All-Americans: Jimmer, Kemba, Nolan Smith, Jared Sullinger& JaJuan Johnson. Voting now, I'd put D-Williams over Sully.

 Williams averaged 19.5 points per game along with eight rebounds and shot a mind boggling 57 percent from behind the arc.  That three point percentage seats him second all time in the UA record books behind Steve Kerr.

Most improved player:

That's a tie between Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom

Hill last season was always questioned for not being in game shape.  But this year, its safe to say, he quieted all those doubters.  His coming out party was the 20 point performance against Kansas in Las Vegas.  That game showed the team and country what Hill's ability really is.  Granted, he didn't score the most points or lead the stat sheet in many categories, but Hill was the teams most versatile and well rounded player. 

Personally, I feel the game against Texas was the best game he has ever played.  Scoring 16 points and pulling down 10 rebounds against the size of Texas' big men was very impressive.  Some of those rebounds he skyed above everyone else on the court.  Without that game from him, Arizona had no chance to beat the Longhorns

Arizona fans did not get to see much from Kevin Parrom in this first season.  He was hampered by a foot injury that messed up his entire freshman campaign.  Everyone knew that Parrom would be one of the best defenders on the team.  What people did not know, was that he would turn into one of the more reliable three point shooters this season.  He shot just under 42 percent from deep and over 50 percent from the field overall.

These two players are a big reason why Arizona went so far in the tournament.  Yes, Derrick Williams was unbelievable, but no one can do it alone, as the team showed in the win over Duke and subsequently, the loss to UCONN.

The 2010-2011 season is now behind us, but it brought so many great moments that had us fans out of our seats.  It was great to see the ZonaZoo back to its full potential, the fans, most of them over 40 packing McKale every game day and lastly, to see the Arizona basketball team regain its reputation as a national program.

Fast-Forward:

If I were to say that Derrick Williams' decision to either go pro or stay at the University of Arizona was not on my mind or any other Wildcat fans mind, I would be lying.  Ever since the game ended, Twitter has been blowing up about "The Decision."

In many tweets since the loss, Williams keeps saying "we this", "we that" as seen in this tweet with 2011 Arizona recruit Nick Johnson, from Findley Prep, Nevada.

@ thanks bro , Yessir u def. will! We all just have to work!

I could go on and on for hours to what extent he means 'we'.  But to save all of you and me, for that case, time, I'll say this.  So, for the next month, try to not harass "Superman."  When the time comes, he will let us all know about his decision, and we will support him no matter what, because he is one of us: an Arizona Wildcat.

Scholarship Issues:

Four players, one spot, sounds like fun, right guys?

With only one player guaranteed to be leaving next season, Jamelle Horne due to graduation, Arizona is in what seems like a sticky situation. 

However, they have four recruits coming in that form one of the best classes in Arizona history and currently in every recruiting sites top 10 (ESPN #8, #8) [Note, rivals does not have a 2011 ranking yet)

Those recruits are Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner, Sidiki Johnson, and Angelo Chol.

Because of the NCAA sanctions, Arizona is only allowed 12 scholarship players next year.  This means that 3 of Arizona's scholarship players will no longer be on the team next year.

Who I believe will be gone, or should be gone by the time the 2011 season starts is listed below.

1) Jamelle Horne: This is the only for sure player that will be leaving.  This is because his four years of eligibity is up.  If only the rest of this was as easy. 

2) Daniel Bejarano: The former Texas Longhornscommit was ranked in ESPN's top 100 but has found that ranking meant nothing when he arrived to Tucson.  Bejarano has only played 30 minutes this season and scoring just six points.  With the ability of guards coming in, he will not play next year if he stays on this team.  Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe caught up with Bejarano and talked to him about next season in this article.  Bejarano will most likely take the Zane Johnson route and go play for a mid-major where he will get minutes and will be one of the better players on the court.

Now comes the speculation and thats pretty much all it is.  So if you disagree or have your own opinions, post them in the comment section, because I am as interested in this as you are.

3) Alex Jacobson: Jacobson is a Senior by school credits, but only a Junior in the NCAA basketball minds.  This is because Jacobson redshirted his first season as a Wildcat. However, this does not mean that he has to come back.  He could pull a Jeramiah Masoli and transfer without having to sit out a year if he begins to take graduate level classes.  To me this makes the most sense, if he even wants to play basketball after this season.  With two 'big men' coming in next season, it is almost assured he will not be seeing any playing time

4) Derrick Williams to the NBA: Williams is almost guaranteed to be a top three pick after what he did in the NCAA tournament.  I feel it is 80/20 that he is NBA bound.  The only reasons why I feel he may stay is due to the possible NBA lockout that will happen over the summer or because he family wants him to continue getting an education.

4b) Kyryl Natyazhko: Things just have not worked out for Kyryl.  It is widely known that if he wanted to go play in Europe, he would be given a very lucrative contract.  For whatever reason, Natyazhko averaged close to 20 points per game over the summer, but when he came back to Arizona, that offensive mindset disappeared.  He averaged a tad under 10 minutes per game and less than two points per game.  In the tournament, he did show that his size made other teams' big men have fits, but when one does not even think about shooting, it hurts the team on the offensive end.  Kyryl Natyazhko is another player who could look to go to a lower conference where his flaws are hidden as well as playing in a system that is more to his liking. 

I want to thank you all for reading my basketball posts for the past few weeks and I, along with the rest of Azdesertswarm will keep you up todate on anything going on. 

Hope this post has given you much to think about while many things are going on behind the closed doors of the McKale Center basketball offices.

As always, Beardown Arizona. 

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