Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats hoops countdown: What is best play in program history?

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This year’s countdown to tipoff includes an overall look at the best play in Arizona Wildcats history, which will be determined as the days leading up to tipoff Nov. 14 comes to a close. Today marks 55 days until Arizona starts its 2014-15 season against Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 14 at McKale Center. Along with the mentioning of the top plays, the countdown will once again display the top players who have worn the number that corresponds with the day. With 55 days to go until the season, today we honor Bob Elliott, an Arizona Sports Hall of Famer who is one of 107 players in college hoops history with at least 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.

Here’s one of the top plays (they will be listed randomly during the countdown until a determination is made in a bracket about which play is the best):

TOM TOLBERT’S CIRCUS SHOT VS. NORTH CAROLINA IN 1988 ELITE EIGHT

Tom Tolbert said of his memorable shot against North Carolina in 1988 that it was like Hulk Hogan coming down on him. It was actually North Carolina's 250-pound forward J.R. Reid

Tom Tolbert said of his memorable shot against North Carolina in 1988 that it was like Hulk Hogan coming down on him. It was actually North Carolina’s 256-pound forward J.R. Reid

I concede that I can not describe Tom Tolbert’s no-look, flip behind-the-back basket against North Carolina in the 1988 Elite Eight better than how Tracy Dodds of the Los Angeles Times described the play. Dodds’ account that was published March 28, 1988:

With all 256 pounds of the great J.R. Reid crashing down upon him, Arizona center Tom Tolbert flipped the ball back over his head toward the basket, hoping to get himself two free throws for his trouble. The ball glanced off the glass, hit the front of the rim and dropped through the hoop to tie the score. Arizona went ahead by one on Tolbert’s free throw with more than 14 minutes left to play, and that was just about the last of North Carolina’s hopes.

As the crowd of 22,470 roared to life at the Kingdome Sunday, Tolbert began to frustrate Reid on the other end of the court. Tolbert made his way to Seattle from Artesia High School by way of UC Irvine, Cerritos College and the University of Arizona, and he wasn’t going to let any highly recruited superstar keep him from his final destination after all of that.

When Arizona Coach Lute Olson complimented Tolbert’s defense against Reid, Tolbert answered with a tip of his cap–his new cap with the Final Four logo and the inscription, “Goin’ to Kansas City.”

Yes, indeed. The University of Arizona is going to the Final Four for the first time. Arizona won the West Regional of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.’s basketball tournament with a 70-52 victory over North Carolina.

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Tolbert, a comical sort, was quoted as saying that he “wasn’t very amazed” about the wild shot.

“I used to mess around in my driveway when I was little with shots like that all the time,” Tolbert told the New York Times. “It wasn’t the shot itself; it was having somebody that weighs 300 pounds come down on me. I thought it was Hulk Hogan or something coming down off the top rope.”


The play is at the 1:53 mark of the following video:

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

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