Arizona Basketball

T.J. McConnell hoping to play big wearing No. 4 for Arizona Wildcats


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No. 4 is usually a uniform number designated for guards because of its single digit, but it literally has played big in Arizona Wildcats history.

Pound for pound, the biggest player in terms of production in Arizona Wildcats history is Leo Johnson. Never heard of him?

Johnson, a Safford legend who passed away last year at age 83, was a guard for coach Fred Enke who held the Arizona Wildcats’ single-season rebounding record (373 in 1950-51) for 58 years until post player Jordan Hill compiled 375 in 2008-09.

Johnson averaged 12.5 rebounds as senior in 1950-51, when Enke’s team finished 24-6 and won its sixth consecutive Border Conference title. Enke assigned Johnson to guard talented Long Island University power forward Sherman White when Arizona upset the nationally-prominent Blackbirds 61-60 at Bear Down Gym on Jan. 29, 1951.

Johnson’s quickness limited White to 14 points until White fouled out with 8:15 remaining. The Blackbirds led by as many as 18 points but faltered after White drew his fifth foul. It was the Arizona Wildcats’ 73rd straight win at Bear Down. Long Island coach Clair Bee blamed the refs for the outcome.

“You will never get good teams to come to Tucson because of this condition,” Bee told the Associated Press. “If I had the best team in the nation, I couldn’t beat Arizona on this floor in Tucson.”

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One has to wonder if it was not only Johnson’s defense that kept White obsolete that night.

Less than a month after losing to Arizona, White, who averaged 27.7 points a game and was the Sporting News National Player of the Year that season, was arrested for being part of a legendary point-shaving scandal at LIU.

He was sent to jail and was prevented from being the No. 1 pick overall in the NBA draft. White was banned from playing in the NBA because of the incident.

Back to Arizona history: The No. 4 jersey number includes another player who played big all over the court — Luke Walton — and on the frontcourt — Ben Davis.

Walton is one of six Arizona Wildcats who have recorded a triple-double. He had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against USC in 2002.

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Arizona’s No. 4 players
Source: UA media relations
L.J. Cox, C, 1939-40
Helm Hugh, G, 1940-41
Sidney J. McDuff, G, 1944-45
William Storie, F, 1945-46
Leo Johnson, G, 1949-51
Jon Bruner, F, 1951-53
Rick Dienes, G/F, 1959-60
Bill Mower, G, 1959-61
Buster Forbes, G, 1961-62
Ben Davis, C, 1994-96
Luke Walton, F, 1999-2003
Garland Judkins, G, 2008-10
T.J. McConnell, G, 2013-

Davis is one of a handful of players who led Arizona in scoring and rebounding in one season. He posted 14.2 points and 9.5 rebounds a game as a senior in 1995-96.

No other player has more rebounds in a Pac-10 season than Davis. He pulled down 200 in 1995-96.

Arizona junior guard T.J. McConnell is the latest to wear No. 4 for the Wildcats. Judging from his performance against Augustana last week — eight assists and no turnovers — McConnell is off to something promising for Arizona’s program.

“I don’t think that I’ve had a point guard dominate the practice stats like T.J. has through the first 22 or 23 practices we’ve had,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in his postgame press conference. “He’s doing it every day. … On offense, you can see he makes his teammates better. Defensively, he can really pressure the ball and steal it.”

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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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