Definition of METAMORPHOSIS
Nic Wise was the only major contributor on the Arizona Wildcats to toe both the Lute Olson era and the Sean Miller regime. He had a year under each head coach and another single season with both Kevin O'Neill and Russ Pennell during the dramatic segue seasons following Olson's departure.
Indeed, Wise was a defining player in the transformation of Arizona basketball.
But where he stands is more of the connection between two very far apart eras -- yes, two unstable years in college basketball translates more to the tune of four or five when you consider recruiting.
Kyle Fogg is more representative of the path Arizona basketball took following Olson, a metamorphosis as complex as caterpillar, to cocoon, to butterfly -- from elite status, to two seasons of interim coaches, to the rebuilding process that's still underway under Miller, to potential elite-hood once again.
At 139 games played, Fogg ends his career with the most games played in Arizona Wildcats history. He's tied for the fifth most starts with Channing Frye at 119. His 3,829 minutes on the court are only bested by Salim Stoudamire, Anthony Cook, Mustafa Shakur, Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott and Jason Gardner.
Those statistics represent every bit of effort that's been relegated to getting Arizona basketball transformed back into a national power.
"Use what talents you possess, the woods will be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." -Henry van Dyke
Kyle Fogg wasn't an elite recruit coming out of Brea Olinda High School. He didn't possess any raw physical strengths and didn't have any one skill he excelled at. To this day, he doesn't have any exceptional physical strengths and as his senior year drew on, only hoped to retain 190 pounds on his slim 6-foot-3.
He arrived at Arizona under the Pennell coaching staff, a late add-on to the class that also included highly-touted Brendon Lavender and another late pick-up in the super-athletic Garland Judkins. Both saw time at the two-guard spot in front of Fogg, but when it came down to it, Fogg won out.
It was making the most of limited talent, knowing he was good enough to be on the college basketball court but not good enough to do anything he wasn't capable of.
Fogg survived by playing smart.
Alongside Wise, whose skills are now are showcased in the Euroleagues, and NBA players Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, success was as simple as blending in with his talented crew.
Same was the case last season with rising star Derrick Williams. That situation alone epitomizes Fogg's brilliant acceptance of his role -- he knew the game was as simple as getting the ball to Williams, and that translated to his team-leading 99 assists on the year.
Playing smart is only half of the story.
When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur ... Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don't look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That's the only way it happens - and when it happens it lasts."
- John Wooden
"Role player" wouldn't exactly define Fogg through his first two seasons at Arizona.
Roles, after all, require specialities.
Kyle Fogg didn't necessarily have that early on, and to no fault of his own. When Sean Miller came around, that was going to change. Like the guard himself, Miller knew Fogg wasn't going to become a go-to scorer or a playmaker with the flip of a switch.
So the coach did the same thing he did to the program as a whole when he landed in Tucson -- Miller broke Fogg down only to build him back up.
During his first season, Arizona's new head coach lamented the team's poor perimeter defense, often publicly. Behind closed doors, he asked Fogg, first, to put on weight and, second, to commit himself to becoming the Wildcats' lockdown defender.
This required sacrifice of course -- nobody grows up wanting to be a James Posey or a Thabo Sefolosha.
But sacrifice is what happened, and at the threat of poorer offensive statistics, Fogg grew into just that defensive specialist, giving him an identity to lean on should he look toward playing overseas, or maybe even finding a role in the D-League to fight for a place in the NBA.
This transformation you know already.
Yet, it's important to point out the parallels in Fogg's career to the rebuilding process of the Arizona program.
Yes, the lack of elite talent that Arizona fans were used to seeing in the Olson days were gone with Kyle Fogg. That surely is the reason why a team started Jesse Perry, a JC transfer and 6-foot-7 small forward, at the center position this year. It's why the Wildcats against didn't make the NCAA Tournament and lost in the first round in the NIT.
But now, the Miller era truly begins.
Save for a fluke of an Elite Eight run thanks to Derrick Williams, the 2011-12 season was the breaking down of the Arizona program, only to build itself back up.
It's just like Kyle Fogg's metamorphosis, and it's something that might be hard for irrational Arizona fans to understand; Sean Miller could very well bring a national championship to Arizona, sooner rather than later.
Ask Kyle Fogg. He understands.