Arizona Basketball

No. 14 for Arizona Wildcats includes two pivotal players who revived program

AZHOOPS14

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An important comparison in the successful coaching careers of Fred Snowden, Lute Olson and Sean Miller at Arizona — they each recruited one of their best classes in their first season in Tucson.

Snowden’s Class of 1972, Olson’s Class of 1983 and Miller’s Class of 2009 each featured at least two players who were later selected in the NBA draft.

Snowden had four players, Olson three and Miller two. Two of these nine players who pumped life into the Arizona program immediately upon their arrival in Tucson wore No. 14. Eric Money and Eddie Smith had two contrasting styles playing different positions, but they share a tremendous value of putting Arizona’s program where it is today.

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Money came on board with fellow Detroit prospect Coniel Norman in 1972 after Snowden, a former Michigan assistant, was hired following a six-year stretch in which the Wildcats had only one winning season. The “Kiddie Korps”, which also included Al Fleming, Ron Davis, John Irving and Jim Rappis, was an immediate success posting a 35-17 record in the first two seasons.

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Arizona’s No. 14 players
Source: UA Media Relations
Carl Berra, F, 1939-40
Lauren Batty, G, 1940-41
Donald Higgins, C, 1944-45
C.L. Bradford, F, 1945-46
Art Carrol, G, 1948-49
Manuel Gutierrez, G, 1949-50
Bob Davis, G, 1950-51
Web Small, G, 1951-52
Allan Stanton, G 1952-53
Bill Wagner, G, 1954-55
Dick Mowher, F, 1958-60
Kirk Young, F, 1959-62
Albert Johnson, C/F, 1962-65
Bill Davis, F/C, 1966-68
Bill Warner, G, 1968-71
Gene Moore, F, 1971-72
Eric Money, G, 1972-74
Steve Kanner, G, 1974-75
Tom Ehlmann, G, 1975-76
John Smith, G, 1977-81
John Vlahgeorge, G, 1981-82
Ken Ensor, G, 1982-83
Eddie Smith, F, 1983-85
James Harbour, G, 1995-96
Jason Richey, G, 1994-95
Ortege Jenkins, G, 1996-97
Michael Schwertley, F, 1999-2001
Peter Hansen, F, 2001-02
Beau Muhlbach, G, 2003-05
Mohamed Tangara, F, 2005-08
Brendon Lavender, G, 2008-09
Kyryl Natyazhko, C, 2011-12

Eric Money today

Eric Money today

Money and Norman left after their sophomore seasons for the NBA and took their high-scoring legacy with them. Money, who played six years in the NBA, had two games as a freshman at Arizona in which he scored 37 points.

The late Snowden, nicknamed “The Fox”, was the first black head coach at a major school, “the fly in the buttermilk of Tucson” as he told Sports Illustrated in a 1974 article.

Money and Snowden had the same outgoing charisma and he played Snowden’s up-tempo style to perfection.

An excerpt from the SI article:

Snowden’s teams dazzle the opposition on the break, then wave at them on the defensive end. “We let you play with it because we want it back in a hurry,” he says.

Two years after Money and Norman left, the UA came one game away from the Final Four, losing in the West Regional final to UCLA in Pauley Pavilion in 1976. If Money and Norman stayed until they were seniors that year, Arizona would have advanced to its first Final Four before Olson arrived. No doubt about it.

Olson coached Arizona to its first Final Four in 1987-88 thanks to the foundation laid by Smith and teammates Pete Williams and Steve Kerr in Olson’s first recruiting class.

In their first season of 1983-84, the Wildcats won six of their last eight games, to finish with an 11-17 record. Arizona won nine of its first 12 games in the next season before traveling to ASU again to start the Pac-10 season. That’s when Smith contributed to one of the most legendary comebacks in UA history.

“This was the start of something that would set a tradition,” Smith writes in his e-book The Cornerstone of Arizona Basketball. “The clock clicked down to less than a minute. They were up 9 points. And remember, at that time in the game, there was no 3-point line.”

Smith converted on two traditional three-point plays instead as part of Arizona’s winning rally after ASU led 60-53 with 37 seconds remaining.

He scored and was fouled with 26 seconds remaining. His free throw cut the lead to 60-56. The late Bobby Thompson, an ASU guard who is the son of the former UA all-star tailback with the same name, missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation and Williams grabbed the rebound. Arizona’s Morgan Taylor made a 20-foot jump shot with nine seconds left to cut the lead to 60-58.

Williams deflected the inbound pass and Smith emerged with the ball after a scramble. His scoop shot banked in while he was fouled by Thompson with two seconds remaining. The game was tied. A free throw would give the Wildcats the improbable lead.

“I went out to the free throw line,” Smith writes. “Got my rhythm and shot the ball with a relaxed follow-through motion. It went in. … Man, that was a comeback!

“We shocked the players, their coach, their fans and the majority of the betting world.”

Smith is an educator and motivational speaker who resides in Stockbridge, Ga. Money is an educator and assistant coach at Valley Park Prep in Los Angeles.

I spoke with Money at a 2010 Arizona basketball game at McKale Center.

Countdown to Tip-off Blogs:

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WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com.

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