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The Wilbur and Sparky of the Week

The Wilbur and Sparky of the Week will run every Wednesday this season. One current or former Arizona player that we love and one current or former Arizona or non-Arizona player that frustrated the hell out of us will be spotlighted. It's kind of like Love/Hate but you don't have to read horribly boring, unfunny stories about Matthew Berry's life. In the comments below add in some of your personal Wilbur's and Sparky's so we can add them to this sacred list.

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Jess and Lewis are BFFs that attended Arizona from 2004-2008 and have bled, puked and pooped red and blue ever since (real fans do more than just bleed their teams colors). Every Wednesday this season each of us will spotlight two players. The players we love will be signified as our Wilbur of the Week, named after our glorious push-up champion, family man of a mascot Wilbur Wildcat and our hated player will be designated as our Sparky of the Week because Sparky represents all that is wrong in the world and he should stay in hell where he belongs. The only rule for eligibility to be selected as a Wilbur or Sparky of the Week is that players must have been played during the following time range: 2004 - Present. To see last weeks edition, click here.

Wilbur of the Week - Lewis

My Wilbur of the Week was all lined up and ready to go and I was excited that he was relatively obscure. I don't want our loyal readers to think that our Wilbur will always be a who's who of the best of the best of Arizona players. I'm excited to talk about some of our bench guys and role players throughout the years that I loved but after that Oregon State travesty there was only Wildcat on my mind and I knew he had to be my Wilbur of the Week. The one thing that become apparently obvious as I watched the closing minutes of the game on Sunday night was that this year's Arizona squad does not have THE guy yet. We don't have one guy who wants the ball in his hands at the end of a close game and we don't have a guy that all of us fans fully expect to come through in clutch situation for us.  Last year we had that guy, and the saddest thing is that we could still have him this year. As you can probably guess, my Wilbur of the Week is Nick Johnson.

Like so many others, Nick Johnson came to Tucson out of Findlay Prep where he was certainly highly regarded as the #40 player in the country but he didn't come in with the hype of many Arizona stars before him. That quickly changed as Nick was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman after a year that wasn't amazing statistically but was impressive in many ways as Johnson showed off not only his hops, but also his high basketball IQ.

After a stepping stone of a Sophomore year where he showed drastic improvement from his Freshman campaign, Nick took the leap in his Junior Year as you all know because it wasn't exactly ancient history. Last season Nick Johnson was unequivocally the man in Tucson as his intangibles like staying cool in crunch-time and his obvious leadership ability meshed perfectly with his very tangible skills like being able to play both guard positions, shoot the rock, defend like crazy and I'm also pretty sure he can fly.

My fondest memory of Nick Johnson is from our Sweet Sixteen battle against SDSU last year where he shook off an absolutely atrocious start to the game to score 15 points in the final 2:45, including going 10-10 from the line, to win it for the Cats. When we needed points last season, Nick Johnson got them and and when we needed stops last season he got those too. Nick was a First Team All American and the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2014 and I'd sure like our National Championship chances a lot better if he was still our starting 2-guard in 2015.

Sparky of the Week - Lewis

I'm about to go contrarian on all of you so get ready for a bombshell. I hate David Bagga. There, I said it. I know he was one of the more popular walk-ons and bench guy that Arizona has had in our recent history so I know I am in the vast, vast minority here but I can't help it, I don't like the guy. Now that you have picked your jaw up off the floor, allow me to explain.

Much more importantly than his playing career, it's what happened after his playing career that makes me dislike him so passionately. Read this about him, written by him. I'll wait here for you to finish then we can discuss:

Oh boy...Where to begin? Let's do this FJM style

'One of the Youngest Novelists in the United States'.

Wow. This makes me mad in so many ways.

A) It's pretty easy to be a 'Novelist' when you self-publish a book. If I had asked my parents nicely to borrow some money I could have published my mystery novel I wrote when I was 12 about a character based on myself that is the NFL's top long snapper by day and the NYPD's top murder detective by night.

B) Being a 23 year old author does NOT make you one of the youngest novelists in the country. Here is a small sample of people that have written books at a younger age than Bagga did:

'David wanted to be a fighter pilot until he started playing basketball at age 13'

He didn't become a basketball player for a living so this sentence makes no sense. Here, I'll give it a whirl, 'Lewis wanted to be the first man to walk on Mars until he started singing in the shower at age 13'. These thoughts are uncorrelated, especially because I didn't end up working in the music industry. Beginning to play basketball at age 13 does not stop you from being a fighter pilot. And if he means he actually stopped fighter pilot training at age 13 then he should be bragging about being America's youngest fighter pilot instead of  one of America's youngest novelists.

'While at Mater Dei David caught the attention of Hall of Fame Coach Lute Olsen'

'Pastner! You ever seen a kid wave a towel that well before?! I MUST HAVE HIM.'

By the way David Bagga averaged 1 point and 1 rebound per game in high school. My vertical is somewhere between negative two and and four inches and I averaged double digits in high school and trust me, Lute Olsen was not noticing guys like me or David Bagga.

'David Bagga stepped onto the University of Arizona's campus in 2005 and would wind up revolutionzing the word 'Walk-On''

Does the definition of 'walk-on' now means to have no self-awareness of your actual importance to your team? If so then I will agree with his statement. And if walk-on now means writing a book people want to read about your experiences then I have to give Mark Titus a lot more credit than Bagga.

'Had the teams highest GPA 3 out of his 4 years there.....'

Impressive. Well done.

And graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on Communication, Business and Regional Development

And..... I take back everything I said. I remember at Freshman orientation we had a speaker tell us, 'remember kids, if you decide that academics really isn't your cup of tea you can go relax by the pool and in four years we will still give you a degree in this major we made up called Interdisciplinary Studies.'

Also, the main reason a walk-on exists is to boost the teams cumulative GPA. The rest of the guys spend a lot of their time, energy and mental capacity on, you know, actually playing basketball.

And I think you get the point! I promise I have nothing personal against the guy, he actually always seemed like a nice guy that his teammates really did genuinely love. And even I am not cold-hearted enough to think anything other than happy thoughts about him hitting his final shot on Senior Night in front of an adoring crowd (seriously, it was amazing). However controversial it may be, Bagga still remains my pick for my Sparky of the Week because no one who writes a publicly available biography like that deserves to not be made fun of.

Wilbur of the Week - Jess

Wow. I never knew anyone could dislike a walk-on 12th man so much. Anyway, moving on......

We all know that in his recruiting class Derrick Williams was more of a footnote than headliner, ranked as about the 25th best power forward that year in the nation. Most didn't think much when he de-committed from USC to join the extremely good looking Sean Miller in his inaugural year as head coach of a team that had only two upperclassmen in total. But in just the third game of his Wildcat career, a tight 65-61 loss to Wisconsin which saw him drop 25 points and pull down eight rebounds, Arizona fans realized they had a special player rocking #23. D-Will made the future look very bright for U of A his first season, racking up Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, and being the sole frosh in the conference to gain All Pac-10 First Team honors.

Williams wasn't going to be surprising anyone his Sophomore year, it was clear he was a major focal point for the Cats. Yet through all the double teams, opponents putting their best defenders in lock-down mode on him, coaches working their game-plan around stopping him, Williams still had an unbelievable season catapulting himself into the national conversation. Oh yeah, and he always put on one hell of a show too. A major highlight that season was the White Out game against Washington, where on the final possession of the contest, Williams' defensive heroics saved the game for the Cats (even Wilbur caught the moment at the 1:56 mark of this cool Go-Pro video he took), and they won 87-86.  Winning Pac-10 Player of the Year, first team All-Conference and All-American honors prepared Derrick for the deep tourney run he led the team on. D-Will's path of destruction to the Elite Eight included a huge defensive stop in the closing seconds against Memphis, an insane three point play the next round to defeat Texas, and then of course the game of his career against defending national champs, the Duke Blue Devils, a huge win that had some epic throwdowns.  Yes, the Cats fell to eventual champs Connecticut in the following round, and Williams was then selected second overall in the 2011 NBA draft, but he will forever have a special place in our hearts as one of the all-time Arizona greats.

Sparky of the Week - Jess

Sparky: Expectations can oftentimes be very unfair to recruits.  Placing stock in them being rated "five stars", reading about what NBA player they compare to, watching them dominate other high schoolers on  Youtube can lead to us putting too much pressure on these kids. That's part of what I think happened with Jamelle Horne, a 6'7" forward with major athletic ability who was a top 45 player in the nation when he arrived at Arizona in 2007. He was by no means expected to shoulder the load for a team that had a number of seasoned players. But whenever I think back to Jamelle Horne, what comes to mind are some very questionable decisions in big moments that lead to headlines like "Arizona's head-shakingly bad loss to UAB".

In just the second game of his Sophomore season and the Wildcats tied with UAB 71 to 71, Horne intentionally fouled Paul Delaney with 0.8 seconds on the clock. That meant two free throws (Delaney made one), and possession of the ball for the Blazers, effectively ending the game in a 72-71 loss for the Cats. Two months later, in Los Angeles at the end of a tight battle with USC, Horne again fouled at the worst possible time, giving Daniel Hackett a trip to the line to lock up the game 65-64 for the Trojans. The other memory that sadly and painfully sticks out was the missed three-pointer that would have sent the Cats to their first Final Four in a decade. He had a solid career as a Cat, contributing as a role player and mentor for many of the younger players on the team and even earning himself a lovely writeup on this very site, but the questions of what if will always remain when it comes to Jamelle Horne.