EDITOR NOTE: AllSportsTucson.com will run a feature this basketball season highlighting what happened 20 years ago on that particular day commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Arizona Wildcats’ national championship. The next in the series is what occurred and what was written concerning the developments of Jan. 11, 1997, when Arizona defeated arch-rival ASU 92-84 in Tempe. The information gathered is through articles written by beat reporters Steve Rivera (Tucson Citizen) and Javier Morales (Arizona Daily Star), who now are working together for AllSportsTucson.com
You can access previous stories in this series by clicking on this link.
DATELINE: Jan. 11, 1997, University Activity Center, Tempe
There had been some thought that Miles Simon’s return to No. 7 Arizona’s lineup would have a hurtful effect on Michael Dickerson’s role.
Would Dickerson still have the offensive punch he’d displayed for the first 11 games? Would his playing time decrease? And what about his backcourt buddies Jason Terry and Mike Bibby? What about their roles?
If today’s 92-84 win over Arizona State is any indication, all will be well with the surging – and destined-to-improve – Wildcats (10-2 overall, 3-0 Pac-10).
Role reversal with Simon in there? Actually, it may have been a role rehearsal.
When asked whether Dickerson’s role would change, Simon, who regained his academic eligibility yesterday, said, ”Obviously not. He scored 32 points (vs. ASU). That’s his job – and will always be his job – to score. All you have to do is get him the ball, and he’ll do it.”
Seems easy enough. And it could get more comfortable for Dickerson, who continues to lead the Pac-10 in scoring with a sparkling 23.6 points-per-game average.
If Dickerson maintains his average, he would easily become the sixth UA player to score more than 600 points in a season.
Things have gone so well for Dickerson this season that his name has been added to the list of John R. Wooden Award candidates for college player of the year. Bibby’s name was also listed.
”It’s a deserving honor,” Arizona assistant coach Jim Rosborough said of Dickerson. ”He’s done a lot in the absence of Miles. But he will continue to do a lot for us.”
And no, Dickerson’s role won’t change, Rosborough said.
”He’s still a scorer,” he said.
Today, without any prompting, Olson scoffed at those who thought the addition of Simon would be a problem of any kind.
”Are you kidding me?” Olson said, referring to Simon’s return causing chemistry problems for a team already successful without him. ”That would have to (come) from someone who has no knowledge of basketball.
”Miles Simon is our best basketball player. He’s the guy with the leadership. He can finish the play. Everyone could see how vital Miles was to us (on Saturday).”
Simon finished with 18 points (6-of-13 shooting) in 25 minutes. He added seven assists and four rebounds.
”If I can shoot that percentage anywhere from 45 to 50 percent and 40 percent from the three-point line, that would be good,” Simon said. ”I can also dish off assists. I’ve got to get the ball to the open guys because we do have good shooters.”
But what his teammates see the most is his take-charge personality. That was evident Saturday.
”He’s a leader, a good leader,” Dickerson said of Simon. ”I’m not going to discredit the other guards when we didn’t have Miles. They did a great job of pulling us together, but it’ll definitely help us having him in there.”
— Steve Rivera
* * * * *
Arizona was tempting fate again, watching its double-digit lead slowing diminish in the second half against ASU as it did in the previous games against California and Stanford.
After taking a 16-point lead with less than six minutes remaining, the Wildcats would go more than four minutes without scoring.
Who would miss a crucial free throw for ASU in this game? What Sun Devil would clank a shot off the rim at the buzzer?
Luck has been on Arizona’s side lately. But it turned out the the seventh-ranked Wildcats didn’t need it in their victory in front of 13,055 at the University Activity Center and a national television audience.
All the UA needed was Miles Simon, who regained his academic eligibility to play in the game.
“I don’t think we win this game without Miles Simon,” said UA coach Lute Olson, knowing that Michael Dickerson registered a career-high 32 points.
“As far as all-around play, Miles is our best basketball player.”
Freshman guard Mike Bibby added, “Miles kept telling us to settle down, settle down. He gave us the confidence we needed when they cut the lead to seven points. He’s a good floor leader. We listen to everything he says.”
— Javier Morales
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.