Two Tucson High School alums could become national champions soon while playing for teams in the SEC. Volleyball player Mia Sokolowski will play with Florida today in the national championship match against Nebraska. Levi Wallace is a former walk-on cornerback at Alabama who became a starter this season. The Crimson Tide is in the College Football Playoffs. They play No. 1 Clemson in one semifinal Jan. 1. … Sokolowski, the 2015 AllSportsTucson.com Player of the Year, is a redshirt freshman outside hitter with the Gators. She has played in 55 of Florida’s 112 sets this year with 63 kills, 22 digs and 18 blocks. … Wallace is tied for the team lead with three interceptions and is the only Alabama player to return one for a touchdown this season. He is the 10th-leading tackler with the Crimson Tide with 39, including 4.5 tackles for loss. He has 12 pass breakups, which is by far the best for Nick Saban’s team. The next player is fellow cornerback Anthony Averett with seven. …
Sean Miller claimed last week about Deandre Ayton that “I just have a hard time believing there is anybody better.” The numbers presently back up Miller’s statement for the most part. The only person statistically better than Ayton is Georgetown post player Jessie Govan, who is not a John Wooden Award candidate like Ayton. Govan and Ayton are two of four players in the nation to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 60.0 percent or greater from the field. They are joined by Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and UNLV’s Brandon McCoy with that distinction. Ayton leads the nation with his 9.0 defensive rebounds per game. … Figuring a player-rating system the NBA uses for its fantasy-league numbers, Govan stands slightly above Ayton. The system: Points (equal value), rebounds (multiplied by 1.2), assists (multiplied by 1.5), steals (multiplied by 3), blocked shots (multiplied by 3) and turnovers (minus equal value). This graphic includes power forwards and post players, including Ayton, who are finalists for the John Wooden Award for the national player of the year (McCoy and Govan are not on the Wooden list but I included them):
Ayton is the highest rated NBA draft post-player prospect by Jonathan Givony of ESPN (formerly of DraftExpress.com). Ayton trails only point guard Luka Doncic of Real Madrid in Spain as the top draft prospect overall. Arizona has never had a No. 1 draft pick. The closest were No. 2 selections Mike Bibby in 1998 and Derrick Williams in 2011. Govan is very much under the radar, not listed among Givony’s top 100 NBA prospects. … High school player rankings are such a farce yet people eat them up and the athletes respond accordingly if they drop. The AP Top 25 college basketball poll is silly in December and the rankings of 17-year-old players is even more insane. For some reason, 247Sports now rates Arizona commit Shareef O’Neal at No. 46 instead of No. 44. Somebody check if the world is about to end, please. So ridiculous. What happened either way for O’Neal to be dropped? Why is he rated No. 46 and not No. 36 or No. 56? Of course, O’Neal, Shaq’s son, responded with this tweet:
THEY KEEP DISRESPECTING ME WITH THAT😤 time to snap
Even if he moved up from No. 44 to No. 42 isn’t that still disrespectful? Who wants to be No. 42? The dart throwers must of hit No. 46 this time. It is OK Shareef, just play your game. … Budding Tucson youth baseball player Michael Escalante underwent successful heart surgery this week at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Michael, only 12 and in eighth grade at Flowing Wells Junior High School, had surgery for three hours. His father Javier Escalante wrote on Facebook: “After 3 hours in surgery, Michael is out!! It was a success!! They got it all.THANK GOD!! I want to thank every single one who took the time to say a prayer and say kind words. We appreciate all of you. Thank you so much!!” … Michael this past summer represented the West Coast All-Stars in the NYBC (National Youth Baseball Championships) All-Star Game in New York. He was a key player in Western Little League’s District 5 championship team in the summer. …
During the week, former Arizona football running back standout Kelvin Eafon — a spiritual leader of Arizona’s 12-1 team in 1998 — posted a photo of himself with Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate on Facebook. If Tate was a sponge absorbing whatever Eafon had to tell him, the Wildcats are in much better shape. Eafon made our Top 10 list of Arizona bad asses. “If we could all play as hard and as tough as Kelvin Eafon, we would win every game we played,” Dick Tomey said in a 1997 Seattle Times article. Eafon, now a guest analyst during Arizona’s pre- and post-games shows on KCUB (1290-AM), often played hurt and that did not stop him. Despite suffering from a leg injury — that would have kept most off the field — Eafon scored the game-winning touchdown on a gritty 1-yard plunge against Nebraska in the 1998 Holiday Bowl. He had 16 touchdown runs that season, most of which was playing while banged up. … Eight Miller-coached players at Arizona are playing professionally overseas — Ryan Anderson in Lithuania, Kyle Fogg in China (teammate of former North Carolina and NBA player Tyler Hansbrough), Mark Lyons in Turkey (teammate of former ASU player Victor Rudd), Jordin Mayes in Uganda, Jesse Perry and Kaleb Tarczewski in Italy, Mark Tollefsen in Israel and Gabe York in Germany. … Would an eight-player rotation of those players lose to Arizona’s current rotation? Parker Jackson-Cartwright vs. Lyons, Allonzo Trier vs. York, Rawle Alkins vs. Fogg, Ayton vs. Anderson and Dusan Ristic vs. Tarczewski. I’d take Arizona’s current roster in a close one. Perry would be an equalizer off the bench as an intense rebounder on the Wildcats’ overseas team. …
Lute Olson referred to Steve Kerr as the glue that kept his 1987-88 Final Four team together. Jackson-Cartwright is much the same way for Miller this year with how the senior point guard has played under control. He has tallied 23 assists to just five turnovers in his last five games. He has gone from a 2.42 assist-to-turnover ratio as a sophomore to 3.10 as a junior to 3.13 this season. In the last 35 seasons of Arizona hoops, Kerr ranks the best with a 4.17 ratio (150 assists and only 36 turnovers) in 1987-88. Jackson-Cartwright’s 3.13 mark this year ranks second and his 3.10 ratio last year is third. T.J. McConnell’s 3.05 ratio in 2014-15 is next. … For Jackson-Cartwright to reach Kerr’s lofty ratio of 4.17, he would have to get 17 assists for every turnover the rest of the season. … Nick Foles as Philadelphia’s starting quarterback now with Carson Wentz out with a season-ending knee injury has the backing of Michael Vick, whom he replaced toward the end of Vick’s career. “I know this last past week was difficult for the team, but optimism and your belief and what you have right there at the moment is most important,” Vick told SportsRadio WIP Friday. “I think this team has a chance of going deep in the playoffs. Nick Foles has experience. He can get it done.” It is no coincidence former Arizona assistant Seth Littrell has North Texas in a bowl game today while Foles, one of his pupils, is under the spotlight in the NFL. Littrell, who has one of the best offensive minds in football, is a name you will hear about coaching a Power 5 program in the not-too-distant future.
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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.