Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats hoops best-play countdown: Kerr nails first shot, a 25-foot jumper, two days after dad’s tragedy




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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. Today marks 47 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 wore the number that corresponds with the day. The following is the next top play (they will be listed randomly during the countdown until a determination is made in a bracket):

Steve Kerr's first shot against ASU in 1984 set the tone for his heroic image in Tucson

Steve Kerr’s first shot against ASU in 1984 set the tone for his heroic image in Tucson

Two days after Steve Kerr received the sorrowful news of his father Malcolm Kerr’s assassination in Lebanon in 1984, the Arizona basketball legend decided to play in the Wildcats’ next game.

The game, against ASU on Jan. 20, 1984 at McKale Center, was significant in the development for Kerr and Arizona basketball in general. Malcolm, 52, was president of American University in Beirut. He was shot and killed by a pair of anti-American religious fanatics as he stepped out of an elevator on the way to his office. The men were never apprehended.

“The whole city grieved for Steve,” Arizona booster George Kalil told People magazine. “The kinship and compassion for him is as strong now as it was then. In a way, the people of Tucson adopted Steve Kerr.”

During a moment of silence before playing ASU, Kerr said he “shed a few tears”. Eyewitnesses said he sobbed openly.

Kerr gathered his senses against ASU in Lute Olson’s first Pac-10 game in his coaching career with the Wildcats. ASU had the upper-hand in the rivalry at that time, winners of 10 straight games.

Kerr, a freshman who was the first player off the bench, buried his first shot, a 25-foot jump shot from the left, and went on to score 12 points in Arizona’s 71-49 victory over the Sun Devils. He would have scored more but the three-point line was not instituted until 1986-87.


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ARIZONA’S TOP PLAYS LISTED SO FAR (Click on link to access blogs that pertain to the following)

Sean Rook’s last-second bank shot at Stanford in 1991 gives the Wildcats a 78-76 victory.
Salim Stoudamire’s game-winning jumper against Oklahoma State in the 2005 Sweet 16.
Sean Elliott’s free throw breaks Lew Alcindor’s conference scoring record in 1989.
Craig McMillan’s McClutch shot at the buzzer from full-court pass from Steve Kerr against Oregon State in 1986.
— Arizona 6-10 center Bob Elliott’s 35-foot jumper at the buzzer beats Kansas State in 1973.
Sean Elliott downs Duke with three-pointer over Danny Ferry in last minute in 1989.
Miles Simon’s 65-foot bank shot as time expired to beat Cincinnati in Phoenix in 1996.
Tom Tolbert’s no-look, twisting shot against North Carolina in the 1988 Elite Eight.


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“The first game against ASU was special,” Kerr wrote in an e-mail to former Tucson Citizen sportswriter Steve Rivera. “It was Lute’s first Pac-10 win. And being a huge sports fan, I knew all about the rivalry. So I wanted to beat them in the worst way.

“They had dominated the rivalry in recent years, so to beat them twice that first year was key. I think it set the tone for Lute’s dominance of ASU over the years.”

Kerr’s first shot, that 25-footer from left of the foul line, set the tone for the memorable evening. Olson inserted Kerr with 12:59 left in the first half with Arizona leading 8-5. His shot was a clean swish and the 10,213 in attendance went wild.

“It might have looked like I wasn’t thinking of my dad, but I thought of him the whole game,” Kerr told the Associated Press after the game. “I didn’t tell anyone before the game, but I dedicated the game to my father. I was thankful I made the first shot.

“That helped me get through it. The roughest thing was the moment of silence.” 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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