Arizona Basketball

Throwback Thursday: 1987-88 Arizona Wildcats basketball media guide


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The media guide cover of the Arizona Wildcats' 1987-88 team that was the school's first Final Four team (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The media guide cover of the Arizona Wildcats’ 1987-88 team that was the school’s first Final Four team (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

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Through my experience as a sports reporter with The Arizona Daily Star I received many Arizona Wildcats media guides while covering the football, basketball and baseball teams. The 1987-88 media guide for the Arizona Wildcats’ first Final Four team is one I cherish the most.

The cover (shown above) shows the starting lineup of the Arizona Wildcats that season: Tom Tolbert, Sean Elliott, Anthony Cook, Craig McMillan and Steve Kerr.

Kerr, who will coach his first NBA Finals game tonight when the Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the other Arizona Wildcats were shown as playing cards with the title: “Another Winning Hand”.

The opening line of the season outlook inside the media guide states: “It doesn’t take Perry Mason to recognize that Arizona has a strong case for regaining the top spot in Pacific-10 Conference basketball.”

The Wildcats returned most of its lineup from a team that finished second to UCLA in the conference (the Bruins were 14-4 in 1986-87 and the Wildcats were 13-5). Four of those losses for Arizona were by one or two points. Elliott, Tolbert, Cook and McMillan were joined by Kerr, who missed the 1986-87 season with a knee injury.

“Right now, there are no obvious weaknesses,” Arizona Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson was quoted as saying in the media guide. “Sometimes experienced teams tend to ease through the early practices. With our competition within the team, people can’t do that or they will lose their positions.”

Olson, always the disciplinarian.

Bruce Fraser, now an assistant coach under Kerr at Golden State, was the only letterman lost heading into that season.

The team also welcomed back Kenny Lofton, Harvey Mason, Jud Buechler, Brian David and Joe Turner. The incoming freshman class — key parts to the Gumbies bench squad — included Matt Muehlebach, Sean Rooks and Mark Georgeson.

Arizona rolled to a 35-3 record overall and 17-1 in the Pac-10.

In Kerr’s bio in the media guide, former North Carolina guard Kenny Smith, now a TNT NBA and college basketball analyst, is quoted as saying: “Kerr could start for any team in the ACC. He’s fun to play with because he gives up the ball. He works hard and doesn’t make mistakes. After all that, you add his shooting and you have a guard you can win with.”

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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 LINKS:

Movie documentary “88” on Arizona Wildcats’ first Final Four team work of ambitious brothers

— Stroll down memory lane with our “Throwback Thursday” posts

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Smith was a teammate of Kerr’s on the U.S. team (coached by Olson) that won the gold medal in the 1986 World Championships in Spain. During that competition, Kerr suffered what was feared to be a serious career-ending knee injury.

ESPN’s Dick Vitale was quoted as saying about Elliott: “He is a Mini Magic” (referring to Magic Johnson).

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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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