Arizona Baseball

Top Arizona player who never won a Pac-10 title helped Olson make the Wildcats a national power


Now that LeBron James has earned his ever-elusive NBA title after nine seasons, who are the league’s best who unfortunately did not climb to the mountaintop? BleacherReport.com reports the top five players in NBA history to never win a ring are (from No. 5 to No. 1): John Stockton, Walt Bellamy, Elgin Baylor, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. Using an Arizona angle, who are the best Wildcats since the UA joined the Pac-10 in 1978-79 to not win a conference championship?

The Wildcats won 13 Pac-10 titles overall — 12 regular-season championships and a conference tournament title in 2002 — before the league became the Pac-12 last school year. They also won Pac-10 tournament titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990, but those overlapped regular-season titles. They finished second in the regular season in 2001-02 but emerged victorious in the conference tourney. … The longest gaps without a conference title were seven years (1978-85), five (2005-10) and three (1994-97). … Factoring these gaps, the top Wildcats who played within them include: point guard Russell Brown (1977-81), power forward Larry Demic (1975-79), guard Ron Davis (1979-81), center Frank Smith (1979-83), foward Eddie Smith (1983-85), center Pete Williams (1983-85), guard Leon Wood (1979-80), forward Marcus Williams (2005-07), guard Jerryd Bayless (2007-08), forward Chase Budinger (2006-09), center Jordan Hill (2006-09), point guard Nic Wise (2006-10) and power forward Ben Davis (1994-96). …

Demic, Nehls, Ron Davis, Pete Williams, Smith, Ben Davis, Marcus Williams, Budinger, Hill and Wise are Arizona’s only first-team all-conference selections to not win a Pac-10 championship. My top five out of all of these players includes Pete Williams, Smith, Ben Davis, Demic and Brown. In his three seasons in the Pac-10, Brown incredibly only achieved honorable-mention status in 1978-79 despite being the UA’s career assists leader with 810. He amazingly has the five most assist totals in a game in the program’s history, including 19 against Grand Canyon on Dec. 8, 1979. In the UA’s first season in the Pac-10 in 1978-79, Demic, Arizona’s first first-round draft choice (by the Knicks in 1979), had scoring totals of 38 at UCLA, 37 against Southwestern Louisiana, and 36 against Washington. His 17 field goals against Southwestern Louisiana and Washington remain atop the McKale Center record books. He also went a perfect 10-for-10 from the field in a half against Oregon State that season. … Ben Davis led the Wildcats with 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds a game in 1995-96. No other player has more rebounds in a Pac-10 season than Ben Davis. He pulled down 200 in 1995-96. Smith scored 500 points in 1984-85, averaging a team-best 16.1 a game. In the Lute Olson era, eight players led the Wildcats in scoring and steals in the same season — an indication they got the job done on both ends — and Smith is the only one of them without a conference ring. The others are Hassan Adams, Jason Gardner, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Terry, Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves. Furthermore, Smith and Adams are the only non-guards in this group. …

Former Arizona Wildcat All-Pac-10 player Pete Williams and his daughter Jade (who made the sign he’s holding) before attending the 2011 conference tournament in Los Angeles (Williams family photo)

My No. 1 choice for a player who deserved the Pac-10 title the most is Pete Williams, the undersized 6-foot-7 center who is the UA’s lone representative in the Pac-12’s Hall of Honor without a ring. Williams, a member of Olson’s first recruiting class at the UA along with Smith and Steve Kerr, holds the UA record for career field-goal percentage in conference games (62.2). He averaged 9.2 rebounds a game in his two-year career at the UA after transferring from Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. Olson made comments that Williams is the best rebounder he coached at Arizona. … Williams and Smith deserve credit for putting Arizona in a position to win its first conference title in 1985-86, a year after they left, with Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Sean Elliott leading the way. Because of the success Williams and Smith helped start for Olson, Elliott stayed home after completing his stellar career at Cholla, and Arizona became a national power. Bad timing is really the only reason why they did not win a league title. Williams and Smith arrived at Arizona with Olson after the Wildcats went 4-24 in 1982-83 under Ben Lindsey. Bad timing also befell Budinger, Hill and Wise as they played the last two to three years of their careers without Olson after he abruptly retired because of health reasons in 2008-09 after missing the 2007-08 season. …

Wood and Bayless are the only one-year-and-done players on the list, both eventually first-round draft picks in the NBA. Wood transferred to Cal State-Fullerton after his freshman season. He was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal and is now an NBA referee. Bayless, who played in Olson’s first year removed from the program in 2007-08, averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 assists a game with Toronto last season. … Bayless was recently listed by longtime Arizona Republic prep sportswriter Richard Obert as the No. 8 athlete in the top 30 most interesting Arizona high school athletes he’s covered over his 30-year career. Mike Bibby was Obert’s No. 1 choice with Elliott second and Richard Jefferson third. “Bibby was a highly poised scoring point guard who made everything look effortless,” Obert writes. “His court IQ was off the charts. He would quickly bring the ball down the court and before the defense could adjust, he’d either make a quick bounce pass to a cutting player for a layup or he’d pull up for medium-to-long-range jumpers. Swish.” …

Arizona coach Andy Lopez recently talked about the purity of college baseball and the College World Series in relation to other sports

Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez is the best coach former athletic director Jim Livengood hired. Sean Miller is making a fast track to reaching that point. But the way Lopez has gradually built the UA back to prominence since his hire in 2002 is respectable and not only because of the victories, although they matter most in this society. Lopez was interviewed recently on Sirius/XM College Sports Nation and he touched on the purity of the College World Series and college baseball in general. Lopez’s genuine demeanor and his motto of keeping things simple is a significant reason why the Wildcats will play South Carolina in the championship series of the College World Series beginning Sunday night in Omaha, Neb. … “The word that sticks out is purity,” Lopez said when asked about the luster of the College World Series. “I just hope we don’t ever lose what we have here in this arena. I think Omaha lends a lot to it as the (host) city. I’ve been to some other events and you wonder about agents, you’re wondering about AAU guys … you’re wondering about, you know, money … you’re wondering about a lot of stuff. Here, man, you’re just trying to get a good seat because it’s pretty pure, it’s pretty easy and it’s pretty clean. … It is as pure as you will find in a world that gets a little dark when it comes to athletics.” … Lopez, one of only three coaches to lead three different teams to the College World Series, touched on the fact that Arizona and South Carolina share the same hotel, eating area, elevators and laundry room. “It’s really a unique setting,” Lopez said. “Anybody that has never done it (attend the College World Series), you need to do it.” …

The New York Post published an article on Arizona junior right fielder Robert Refsnyder, the Yankees’ fifth-round draft selection, on June 20. Refsnyder, a native of South Korea who grew up in Laguna Hills, Calif., has never visited New York City. “I’m really excited. To be drafted by the Yankees, there’s such a culture and tradition,” Refsnyder told the Post. “This is what you dream about when you’re a little kid.” Refsnyder wears No. 2 in honor of his favorite player — Derek Jeter — and he is slated to play second base like Jeter in the Yankees’ organization. … Refsnyder will play this summer for the Staten Island Yankees in Short-Season A-ball. Refsnyder will then begin work as a second baseman in extended spring training. Refsnyder played 10 games at second base during his freshman season and Lopez assured Yankees vice president of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer that Refsynder would make a smooth transition back to the infield. “That gives us a little flexibility, gives him another opportunity and another way to get to the big leagues,” Oppenheimer told the Post. “I think he’s a good defender out there in the corner, but anytime you got a guy on the infield who’s offensive it just gives him that much more value.” …

Mario Chalmers and his Miami Heat teammate, Shane Battier, joined Jason Terry in an exclusive club Thursday night. Chalmers, the former Kansas guard, and ex-Duke forward Battier became the fifth and sixth active players in the pros who have won both NCAA and NBA championships. The others including Terry are Nazr Mohammed (Kentucky/San Antonio Spurs), Richard Hamilton (UConn/Detroit Pistons), and Corey Brewer (Florida/Mavericks). … Terry, whose six-year, $57 million contract with Dallas ends on July 1, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, said last week he wants to sign another multiyear deal, preferably with the Mavericks, he told the Dallas Morning News’ Eddie Sefko. “It’s a tough situation,” Terry told Sefko. “I’m finally in a position where I can kind of predict my own future, so to speak. I want to stay here in Dallas. That’s always been my goal. But it needs to be long-term. If they’re not ready to step up and do that, then I’ll have to make my home elsewhere.” The Mavericks are expected to make a run at point guard Deron Williams in free agency. If the team fails to sign Williams, Dallas may try to bring back the core of the 2010-11 NBA championship team. Jason Kidd said last week he would be willing to return on a one-year deal. But Terry would not be willing to re-sign on those terms. “I won’t be here,” Terry told Sefko, if the Mavericks take that route. “You can count on that. If they’re doing that, you won’t see the Jet on the runway in Dallas. But my time here was good.” … Sefko also noted that Terry recently returned from China for several functions, including an NBA Cares outing. On Father’s Day, he staged his Daddy-Daughter charity event in Dallas for the Jason Terry Foundation. The famous dads who attended included Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, coach Rick Carlisle, former Cowboys great Emmitt Smith and many others with their daughters. “This is cool,” Terry told Sefko. “This is one of the joys of being a father. Usually on Father’s Day, everybody honors us; this is more something for us to honor our daughters. Obviously, the father-daughter relationship is one that’s very fragile, delicate and very special to all us fathers.” …

Another guard in Dallas — Class of 2013 prospect Keith Frazier of Kimball High School — told Scout.com recently that Arizona and Texas A&M are showing the most interest in him. Frazier, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound shooting guard, is rated the No. 10 prospect in the Class of 2013 by Rivals.com. Frazier, who plays for the Houston Hoops AAU team, was recently hampered by an ankle injury but chose to continue playing to help his team in a tournament in Oakland. The scouting report on Frazier from Scout.com in that event: “Frazier was aggressive and scored nine points while adding five assists. Offensively, Frazier showed a nice floater and if he has added that as a consistent piece of his arsenal, he is going to be a legitimate scorer rather than a shooter. Defensively, Frazier has a decent amount of work to do, but it is difficult to judge too much because of the environment. Frazier seemed to put most of his effort on offense and, again, a lot of that can likely be attributed to his energy and lack of lateral movement because of his injury.” …

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