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. We encourage you to add your own Wilbur’s and Sparky’s in the comments section below and to make suggestions for who should be spotlighted in future editions.
Let’s get this party started:
My Wilbur of the Week - Lewis
This was an easy choice for me. To kick off this series I am selecting my favorite Wildcat since my freshman year (2004-2005), the one and only Salim Stoudamire. My freshman year corresponded to Salim’s senior year which was undoubtedly the best season of his career, and also the best Arizona team of my tenure in Tucson. Although Salim hit one of the more memorable March Madness shots in the history of the program (his game-winner over Oklahoma State), and three game winners in total that season, the thing I’ll remember most about Salim was the absolute electricity in the building when he got hot. And he got hot basically every game that season. I’ll never forget being in the building for his Senior Night when Salim hit a program record nine three’s including one from the cactus logo well beyond NBA range. As Channing Frye so eloquently put it after the game, ‘Salim was disgustingly good’.
Looking back on that 2004-2005 season it truly is amazing how special of a season he had. Salim shot 50.4% from the field, a nation leading 50.4% from the three and 91% from the line. Stoudamire dropped 37 in the Pac-10 Championship game that year, including a tournament record seven 3's and was named the MVP of the tournament even though Arizona didn't win. He averaged 18 points and 3.3 three pointers per game that year and he decisively proved himself to be the best shooter in country over JJ Redick who shot a full 10% worse from three than our boy Salim.
Watching him was such a treat because much like watching Steph Curry now, you had no doubt at all that every time the ball left his hands it was going in. He had style and swagger to his game and he just demoralized opponents as his lighting quick release made him virtually unguardable. So Salim, in addition to all the other accolades in your storied Arizona career, you can add one more to the list -- the very first Wilbur of the Week on AZ Desert Swarm.
Sparky of the Week - Lewis
As you will see my friend Jess decided to go with a non-Wildcat and most of our Sparky’s will not be a part of the program. But for today’s inaugural one I have no choice but to give my first ever Sparky of the Week to Mr. Josiah Turner.
Josiah came in highly touted as the next great Arizona Point Guard and his mix-tape highlights sure made it look like he belonged at Point Guard U. Of course we were all blinded by his talent and conveniently forgot to take note of the fact that he went to somewhere between four and 97 different high schools and he butted heads with coaches everywhere he went. In the end he made it Tucson and played one season with the Cats and it did not go well. Josiah’s only year corresponded to a very, very rare non-Tournament season and it ended with a suspension, an extreme DUI and finally, with him leaving Arizona altogether.
Sure you say, Josiah was bad but is he really worthy of being the first Sparky of the Week? The answer is yes but it’s not because of the suspensions, or the DUI or the extremely average play from such a hyped recruit. No my friends, the reason he truly is one of the most frustrating Wildcats of the past decade is because he originally committed to Arizona State and if he had stuck with his initial commitment, he would have brought his destructiveness and mediocrity to ASU instead of staining the legacy of our glorious one.
Wilbur of the Week - Jess
This talented, and beautifully bearded individual who's Wildcat career we can look back at fondly was on a destructive path towards being a Sparky for me. One of the top 50 recruits in the nation coming into his freshman season, and part of the group who jumped from USC to Arizona, Solomon Hill was considered to be a major part of a new team and new direction under then first-year coach, Sean Miller. But throughout his Freshman and even into his Sophomore season, I couldn't help but feel like Solomon was thinking NBA and how to propel himself there as soon as possible. His play at times felt more focused on him than on how he could help the team.
But something changed in the guy we came to know and love as "Solo" during that Sophomore campaign that built into his Junior year and Senior year when he was handed the keys to the team. Solomon realized if he really wanted to get to the NBA, and make a lasting impact on his Cats, he had to be a team guy. He did everything, from scoring, to running the offense, to rebounding, to playing defense, but most importantly he was a leader. Our mancrush, Coach Miller, depended on #44 to keep his teammates in line, encourage them, and show them how to play the right way. Those efforts led to back-to-back All Pac-12 nods, two Sweet Sixteens, one Elite Eight and a place in our hearts. Plus he made a heck of a Locker Room Correspondent.
Sparky of the Week - Jess
Let's paint the picture here, and if you need to walk away from the screen to grab some kleenex to cry into, I understand. In March of 2005 I went from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows, all in the span of two days. With time running down on the Wildcat season, our Wilbur of the Week Salim sent us to the Elite Eight. I still want to thank the large stranger I immediately embraced next to me at No Anchovies, I felt as safe in his arms as I did about us getting back to the Final Four. This was my first March Madness run as a student and it showed how invested the students and fans were in the team. University Boulevard was a madhouse, where you'd even see some of your professors happily staggering around chanting BTFD.
But just two days later, everything changed.
Every bar on University Boulevard was packed with eager Wildcat fans, ready to take down the number one overall team in the tournament, the University of Illinois. And for a while, they looked to be on their way to St. Louis for the Final Four. Up 75-60 with a little over four minutes to go, many of us at Gentle Ben's that night were ready to start celebrating. That's when the Illini's four-headed monster of Deron Williams, Deron Williams stupid panther tattoo, Luther Head and Dee Brown took over and somehow sent the game to overtime. With 11 seconds to go, down by one in OT, the Cats made a questionable call in putting the game in Hassan Adams' hands, when All-American Stoudamire was on the wing, and Channing Frye, who shot 11-14 that night, was in the post. Adams missed the shot with Williams in his face. Immediately the festive atmosphere changed to what can only be described as "funeral-like". University Boulevard was silent, as fans mourned a season that was cut short in a brutal fashion. Since then I've forever held a grudge against my Sparky of the Week Deron Williams, his Illini, the color orange and even Bill Murray.