Everyone remembers T.J. McConnell’s final moment in McKale Center.
On Senior Day, the fan-favorite raised his arms up in the air and slowly walked toward mid-court, before bending down and kissing the “A” in the middle of the floor.
Dusan Ristic, a freshman at the time, thought it was an incredible sendoff. So, three years later, when it was his turn to exit McKale for the last time, he had to come up with an idea to make his departure just as special.
That idea turned out to be a commemorative t-shirt.
As Ristic checked out for the final time on Senior Day, he ripped off his Arizona jersey which revealed a white undershirt that read “Dusan Loves Tucson” in red letters on one side, and “Thank You Arizona” on the other.
He left the court-kissing to McConnell.
“I just wanted to do something differently,” he said.
But the t-shirt idea wasn’t something Ristic had been thinking about for weeks or even days. In fact, it wasn’t until game day when Ristic was chatting with the team’s equipment managers that he thought of making the now-famous shirt.
“It just happened spontaneously,” Ristic said.
That shirt is only one part of Ristic’s unforgettable Senior Day, though. There was also the net-cutting ceremony after Arizona clinched the Pac-12 championship outright, and then there was Ristic darting through the stands after the game, giving high five after high five to the UA faithful.
“It was cool, man,” he said. “It was amazing. It was one of the best experiences that I had at U of A. That’s something that’s going to stay with me the rest of my life.”
Even better — Ristic’s parents got to see it all unfold. It was only the second time in his career that they had made the trek from Serbia to Tucson to watch him play.
“It was amazing for them,” Ristic said. “They had a lot of fun. They were here my freshman year. They watched the game against ASU when we were on winter break. So we didn’t have our ZonaZoo, so it wasn’t the same game. It wasn’t like last week. So they went home with a lot of positive experiences.”
It was an epic way for Ristic to depart McKale Center for the final time, but he still can’t believe his time in Tucson is over.
“I’m not aware that I’m done with McKale,” he said, sitting in the locker room at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as Arizona maneuvers through the Pac-12 Tournament.
“In my mind, I still think we have a few games left in McKale. It’s really hard to process the whole thing right now. I think we’ll have to finish the season and then I’ll be aware of it.”