LAS VEGAS — Wearing a t-shirt and a baseball cap, Nick Foles has been a mainstay at the Pac-12 Tournament this season, perched either under one of the baskets or courtside to cheer on the Arizona Wildcats.
The former Wildcat has been motivating them, too.
Before Friday’s win against UCLA, the Super Bowl MVP gave Arizona players a speech at their team hotel.
Foles’ message centered on staying in the moment, not taking anything for granted, and playing within yourself.
Apparently it helped Arizona reach the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, too.
“Just hearing his story and how we came about winning a Super Bowl and how he played in a Super Bowl, he really ignited a fire in us,” said UA point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
“That was a great opportunity to have him come in and give us a great speech,” said UA big man Deandre Ayton, who admittedly doesn’t watch football but had a career night Friday. “He was just telling us when he was in the playoffs, he didn’t really try to make spectacular plays or do something out his league.”
Added UA wing Allonzo Trier: “He just told us to go out there and play free, play loose, have confidence, think and play together. We’re a greatly talented team and just go out there and enjoy the moment and be in the moment. Don’t look too far ahead. … Be in the moment right now and focus on that.”
Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson has been sitting courtside at the Pac-12 Tournament, too.
Arizona has taken notice.
“I was looking at him a lot,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “He was sitting right there and he’s a legend. I’m from L.A., so I love Magic and the Lakers. It’s really cool to see that.”
Johnson caught Ayton’s eye while Rawle Alkins was taking free throws against UCLA.
“I spotted him and I’m like ‘oh OK’, and then I was back to business,” Ayton said. “I was surprised. I didn’t even know why he was there. ... I was shocked. That’s a big dude.”
Ayton put on quite the show for Johnson, pouring in a career-high 32 points to go along with 14 rebounds against the Bruins.
“I’m glad I performed pretty well,” Ayton joked. “He came to the right game.”
Ayton, widely projected to be the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft, was asked if he’d like to play for the Lakers — Johnson is the team’s vice president — but he shrugged off the question.
“I’ll play for anybody,” Ayton said.
Magic Johnson spending some time with the Arizona band pic.twitter.com/Ei1bJpYsnd— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) March 10, 2018
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire