Arizona Basketball

Former Arizona Wildcats Watch: 26 playing professionally who wore UA uniform

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FORMER ARIZONA WILDCATS IN THE NBA
a-Transferred from Arizona before ending collegiate career.
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The count of former Arizona Wildcats playing professionally either in the NBA or abroad stands at 26 as of today, with 14 of them on NBA training camp rosters as the exhibition season starts.

In recent years, before Sean Miller started to produce NBA players like Lute Olson, a majority of the players were overseas.

Miller has produced five of the NBA players from Arizona — rookies Nick Johnson with Houston and Aaron Gordon with Orlando, second-year players Solomon Hill with Indiana and Grant Jerrett with Oklahoma City and fourth-year player Derrick Williams.

The most intriguing story of former Arizona players in NBA camps is forward Marcus Williams, a 27-year old forward who has played since 2010 in China after playing briefly in Puerto Rico and with Austin of the NBA’s D-League. He left Arizona early — too early — after his sophomore season and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft.

He has played in only 13 NBA games with Spurs and Clippers.

Williams made headlines two years ago for receiving a six-month suspension from the Chinese Basketball Association for testing positive for marijuana. Ironically, he is in Colorado, which has legalized marijuana. Williams, who is trying to land a roster spot as a free-agent invitee to camp, must stay away from that substance if he wants to finally live his NBA dream.

Although pot is legal in Colorado, the NBA performs drug tests and fines and suspends those who fail them.

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Williams is one of 17 Olson recruits still playing professionally although Olson has been out of coaching for — believe it or not — eight seasons now.

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FORMER ARIZONA PLAYERS INTERNATIONAL
a-Transferred from Arizona before ending collegiate career

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FINLAND
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Other than the five Miller recruits in NBA training camps, four other of his signees are playing internationally. They include:

Kevin Parrom with Pyrinto of Finland. He played mostly with Rio Grande of the D-League last season.

Mark Lyons of Ironi of Israel. Although only one season removed from Arizona, Lyons has played in Belgium, Croatia and France.

Jesse Perry of Aget Service of Italy. Perry was on the same team as former Arizona teammate Kyle Fogg in Finland (Lapua) last season. He is in his third season of pro ball also having played in Lithuania and Lebanon.

Kyryl Natyazhko of Lietuvos of Lithuania. Natyazhko played in his native Ukraine in the first two years of his pro career but has decided to play in Lithuania this year. Natyazhko is on the same team as former Arizona verbal-commit Mike Moser, who played at UCLA, UNLV and Oregon in his collegiate career.

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Nobody has trekked the kind of miles Mustafa Shakur has traveled in what is now his eighth year since he left Arizona. Shakur is also playing in Lithuania for Neptunas.

He played in Lebanon last year after playing in three games with Oklahoma City. That followed a productive experience in the D-League with Tulsa and Erie (Pa.). He also played 22 games with the Washington Wizards in 2010-11. Other than Lebanon and Lithuania, he has played overseas in Italy and France.

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Gordon and Channing Frye had fun at Luke Ridnour’s expense last week after Arizona beat Oregon in football. Ridnour, a former Duck with Orlando, was forced to wear Channing Frye’s Arizona practice jersey and say, “Bear Down, Arizona”.

Looks like Frye has some personal bearing down to do after another health issue, this time with his left knee.

He suffered a sprained MCL during a workout. The knee became swollen but doctors have determined there is not a tear. He should be at full strength soon.

Frye played all 82 games with the Phoenix Suns last year after missing 2012-13 with an enlarged heart that required rest to heal.

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A few former Arizona players who were in pro ball last season are not currently on rosters.

The list includes power forward Michael Wright, who became a nationalized Turkey citizen and goes by the name of Ali Karadeniz. Last year was Karadeniz’s ninth season in Turkey. He is 34.

The others not currently on rosters include Ivan Radenovic (who played in his native Serbia last year), Alex Jacobson (Uruguay and Canada), Jesus Verdejo (Puerto Rico), Zane Johnson (Canada) and most notably Josiah Turner. He played well for Los Angeles’ D-League team last year but is not on a roster.

Also not listed currently on a roster is Nic Wise, although he posted on his Twitter account last month that he is headed to Europe.

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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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