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
I posed this question to my good friend Jess as we were discussing this column and I pose it here to you loyal reader to think about:
Was Ivan Radenovic ahead of his time?
I think the answer is a resounding yes. And don't laugh, I am being 100% serious. Ivan is a very polarizing Wildcat, both at the time he played and after his career ended, but I am firmly entrenched in the pro-Ivan camp. I genuinely believe that if my boy Ivan came around 10 years later he would have been a first round draft pick and he simply had the misfortune of playing in the wrong era. Ivan is my Wilbur of the Week and I intend to get you to love him too.
The stretch-four, a player with traditional power forward size combined with deadly outside shooting is all the rage in basketball right now. If you read Zach Lowe on Grantland you will find that every other word references spacing and shooting. Because the average Zach Lowe column is 123,000 words, that means he talks about spacing and shooting a lot. NBA teams still want a traditional 5 to protect the rim, block shots, get rebounds and finish around the hoop on offense, but very few teams still employ two traditional big men standing in and around the key at all times. In fact, the Memphis Grizzlies may be the only team that still does this. This fairly recent trend of teams trying to find stretch-fours has changed the landscape in the NBA and its trickle down effect is being felt in college basketball at the moment.
The reason I started with this point is because I believe that if Ivan was in college right now scouts would be salivating over him and he would be considered a potential lottery pick. Let's steal a fun little gimmick from Bill Simmons and do a comparison. Check out the stat lines below and try to guess who the player is:
Player A : 15.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 50% 2PT%, 37% 3PT%, 87% FT%
Player B: 13.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 53% 2PT%, 38% 3PT%, 77% FT%
Player C: 12.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 45 2PT%, 42% 3PT%, 81 FT%
Care to take a guess at who these stat lines represent? The unquestionable best stat line of the three belongs to Player A and Player A is also the only guy out of the three that will never play a minute in the NBA.
Player A is of course, our boy Ivan.
Player B is Frank Kaminsky last year, when he would have been a 1st Round Pick had he declared.
Player C is Ryan Kelly's Senior Year for Duke. Kelly was picked in the 2nd Round and has played for the Los Angeles Lakers ever since.
All three have roughly the same height and weight and roughly the same skill sets and yet Kaminsky and Kelly were lauded by the national media and NBA scouts and Ivan was never mentioned at all nationally during his Senior Year. And honestly, at the time, no Arizona fans really cared because I don't think we fully appreciated his unique skill set. The guy once had a 37-point, 9-rebound and 7-assist game which Lute Olson called 'one of the best games I've ever had someone play for me' and he also was so great because every time he did something you could scream out 'IVAN MAKE DEFENSE!' which I swear never got old. Ivan had his flaws and he could be frustrating at times but I have come to appreciate him and I can't help but think what his career would have looked like if he came along 10 years later.
Sparky of the Week - Lewis
Our first Bruin is officially on the board and it's not Bill Walton! This week's Sparky is UCLA's Lorenzo Mata and no I will not add the Real. You can't change your name during your Senior season and expect me to listen to you. And you also will never find a non-UCLA fan in the world that didn't hate this guy.
What made Lorenzo so annoying, besides the obvious factor of his face, was how he feel ass backwards into one of the greatest non-Wooden stretches in UCLA history. Mata was a part of three Final Four teams in his four seasons so his mug was on TV constantly for four straight years. He was like Joakim Noah minus any of the discernible basketball skill. He was also like Joakim Noah in the sense that they both make me wish that HDTV was never invented. The guy got to play with people like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison and many, many more NBA players so don't let any UCLA fans tell you they wouldn't have had the exact same amount of success without him.
Before any of you over-inflate his importance to those dominant UCLA teams I think it's important to remember that he never averaged more than 6 points per game, he lost his starting job as a Senior and he was the epitome of a grind it out in the ugliest way possible player that Ben Howland loved. Seriously, he had maybe the ugliest game of any player I have ever watched. Howland loved and prioritized guys like Lorenzo Mata and hideous, unlikable basketball is exactly what you get when you play Mata. It also gets you fired even with three Final Four appearances.
But by far and away the biggest reason I hate Mata is that the guy went 7-2 against Arizona in his collegiate career. What a prick.
Wilbur of the Week - Jess
A few other fun memories stand out about my interactions with Channing over the years, like when I was a freshman and he was a senior, we were both in a Psych 101 class with like 500 people in it. We always ended up sitting near each other in the back of the lecture hall, and while I was taking notes for an upcoming exam that would heavily affect my grade, I remember hearing him and his buddy chatting behind me about what shoe brand he would sign with once he hit the league. Just a few weeks later in a seedy club in Nogales, I drunkenly went up to him while he was with a fly lady on the dance floor to tell him he was the man, high five him and that I'd catch him in class on Monday. Years later, our paths would cross routinely as I worked for the Suns while he played there, we would fist bump and throw out BTFD's in the halls, and he even contributed to a really fun video I got to do with the team.
Sparky of the Week - Jess
If those things weren't enough for Cats fans to look down upon the goofy Canadian giant, he forever earned our hatred on a day when there should never be more love in the air. On Valentine's Day of last year, just 12 days after Brandon Ashley was injured for the season, #2 Arizona came to Tempe still trying to figure out how to make up for their fallen power forward. In a second overtime, after a go-ahead layup by Jermaine Marshall that put ASU up by a point, Bachynski blocked a T.J. McConell layup attempt that led to a Jahii Carson dunk. In what would serve as a preview for their Valentine's dates that evening, the Sun Devil fans prematurely reacted and stormed the court with time still left on the clock. Nick Johnson had a good look at a three with 0.7 seconds left on the clock but missed it off the front of the rim. It was the first win for ASU over a ranked Arizona team since 2002. Let's make sure to make that another decade-plus long streak. Oh and by the way, Bachynski doesn't even seem to be loyal to his own school. ASU and Utah? Make up your mind, jazz hands.