Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats hoops top badasses: No. 10 — Jim “Guts” Rappis

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By popular demand, after our publication of Arizona’s Top 10 Football Badasses, AllSportsTucson.com brings you the Wildcats’ Top 10 Basketball Badasses. The countdown will be featured in separate blogs, starting with today’s installment of No. 10, Jim “Guts” Rappis.

Jim Rappis is the biggest badass to wear the Arizona uniform when it comes to playing through multiple serious injuries

Jim Rappis is the biggest badass to wear the Arizona uniform when it comes to playing through multiple serious injuries

How can a player nicknamed “Guts” be left off a Top 10 badass list?

Jim Rappis, a point guard who could also shoot, matched his toughness with his smarts as a two-time All-Academic selection in the WAC. He was a model of perseverance in his Arizona career because of numerous injuries that would sideline other athletes for long periods of time.

The list reads like a night at the ER:

— Rappis fractured an ankle as a freshman and still managed to play nine games afterward.

— He suffered a ruptured appendix at the beginning of his sophomore year and had a series of ankle injuries but still played in 24 of 26 games.

— Another ankle injury when he was a junior forced him to use a cane off the court throughout the season.

— He underwent surgery to correct a spinal disc before the 1975-76 season and was in grave danger of losing his life when he contracted peritonitis (inflammation of a thin layer of tissue inside the abdomen, caused by bacteria or fungus).

— In the 1976 West Regional Semifinal — one of the most thrilling games in Arizona history when the Wildcats beat Jerry Tarkanian and UNLV 114-109 in overtime — Rappis injured his left heel with 5:57 left in the first half but continued to play despite being hobbled throughout. He finished with 24 points and 12 assists against the Running Rebels. His 12 assists were more than what UNLV produced as a team.

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Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:
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RELATED:
A list of Arizona’s significant injuries through the years (published after Brandon Ashley’s season-ending foot injury last season)

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A recent photo of Jim Rappis from his Facebook account (which is no longer active)

A recent photo of Jim Rappis from his Facebook account (which is no longer active)

“Jimmy is the epitome of courage,” Arizona coach Fred Snowden was quoted as saying by the Tucson Citizen afterward.

His heel injury limited him to only four points against UCLA in the West Regional Final, lost by the Wildcats 82-66 at Pauley Pavilion. Rappis was still selected to the NCAA West Regional all-tournament team.

His teammates called him “Guts” and Snowden labeled him “The Six Million Dollar Man”.

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“He would arrive to games on crutches,” Snowden told me in a 1990 interview with the now defunct Cat Tracks magazine, “but he would go out and play like there was absolutely nothing wrong with him.

“He joined us late in December (following back surgery) without the benefit of fall practice, and he walks out there and was one of our leading scorers. He was a courageous, incredible athlete.”

Rappis gained some of his toughness by playing football. He was also an accomplished quarterback at Waukesha (Wis.) High School before Snowden lured him to Tucson after his hire as Arizona’s coach in 1972.

Rappis, 57, is retired and lists residences in Tucson and his hometown of Waukesha.

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

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