AllSportsTucson.com is running a series looking at each basketball recruiting class starting with the Fred Snowden era with a look also at the Lute Olson and Sean Miller classes. Snowden, Olson and Miller have coached at Arizona in 46 out of the last 48 seasons, a period of time when the Wildcats started to gain a national presence. Our second installment in the series is a look at the 1973 class under Snowden.
— Fred Snowden era (1972-82)
— Lute Olson era (1983-2007)
— Sean Miller era (2009-present)
Catch up with the series by clicking here. The series starts with the beginning of the Snowden era in 1972-73. When completed, it will analyze Miller’s recent effort.
Head coach: Fred Snowden
Class of 1973
- C Bob Aleksa, East Aurora (Ill.) HS
- C Bob Elliott, Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer HS
- F Jay Geldmacher, Elgin (Ill.) HS
- F Jerome Gladney, Detroit King HS
- G Len Gordy, Chester (Pa.) HS
- G Herman Harris, Chester (Pa.) HS
- G Gary Harrison, Willow Run (Mich.) HS
- G Kent Markle, Sahuaro HS
Developments: Bob Elliott became Arizona’s career scoring leader with 2,131 points before Sean Elliott (no relation) broke his record. Herman Harris’ career scoring average of 12.7 points might have increased by at least four or five points if a three-point line existed back then. Jerome Gladney averaged 3.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in his career yet was selected in the eighth round of the NBA draft in 1977. Gary Harrison was Arizona’s leading assist man as a senior in 1976-77.
NBA draft picks (3): Bob Elliott (1977/second round/42nd pick/Philadelphia), Harris (1977/second round/43rd pick/Philadelphia) and Gladney (1977/eighth round/164th pick/San Antonio).
All-conference selections (2): Bob Elliott (1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77 in WAC) and Harris (1976-77).
Conference players of the year: None.
All-Americans: Bob Elliott (1975-76, 3rd team, Basketball Weekly and Helms Foundation/Citizen’s Savings; 1976-77, 1st team, Helms Foundation/Citizen’s Savings).
Notable: Snowden told the Tucson Citizen he thought of Bob Elliott “as one of the top two centers in the country.” Little-known fact about Bob, nicknamed “Big Bird” during his Arizona career: He also held the Pioneer High School shot put record with a throw of 60 feet, 4 inches. “His character and stability are clearly indicated by the other great recognition awards he has received off the basketball floor,” Snowden said of Elliott, who earned academic honors as a straight-A student at Pioneer. … After signing Money and Norman from the same high school the previous year, Snowden attracted Chester (Pa.) High School teammates Harris and Gordy. Gordy, who became Arizona’s team captain as a senior in 1976-77, later went on to be an assistant coach at Arizona before coaching at Towson State and Clemson and Creighton. … Harris had one of Arizona’s historically best individual performances against UNLV in a 1976 Sweet 16 game scoring 17 of Arizona’s last 25 points in regulation in a 114-109 overtime game. He played all 45 minutes and scored 31 points with nine rebounds and nine assists. “It was one of those games you have once in your life against a good team,” Harris said the other day. “That’s like Kobe (Bryant) going out and scoring 80 or Michael Jordan getting 50 points in back-to-back nights. I was in one of those zones in that game.” UNLV with Jerry Tarkanian as coach with Eddie Owens, Sam Smith and Reggie Theus were favored to advance to play in the Elite Eight game at UCLA. “I know we were picked to lose by like 30 against UNLV,” Harris said. “I know that because they were the Running Rebels and the Running Rebels will run you out town … Blah, blah this. Blah, blah that. Just like Coach used to tell us, ‘Hey, they put their pants on just like you, one leg at a time.’ They’re only human, you know what I mean? Now, if they want run, I’m gonna show them something about running. Coach told us, “I want you guys to go out there and make their tongues hang out and that’s exactly what we did. We turned the tables on them.” Harris said Snowden conditioned his players for his run-and-gun style by having them run the steps at Arizona Stadium. “I mean, every row we ran up and down, up and down, up and down,” he said. “Then we had to run around the track.” … Harris made headlines in 2018 when he earned his degree at Arizona after working at the Pima County Superior Courthouse for more than two decades following an extended career in the Army. … Harrison also remained in Tucson and was elected the Pima County Clerk of the Superior Court in 2018.
Quotable: Bob Elliott said he knew “zero” about Arizona before Snowden came to Tucson from Elliott’s hometown of Ann Arbor, where Snowden was an assistant coach at Michigan. He mentioned the success of Detroit recruits Eric Money and Coniel Norman a year earlier with the Wildcats convinced him Arizona was worth leaving Big Ten country. “Eric and Corn (Norman) along with Jerome and I played on a team that represented the city of Detroit in a national tournament and we won it,” Elliott said. “That was in the summer after their senior year in high school and when Jerome and I were going to be seniors.” … Snowden’s background with Elliott in Ann Arbor paid dividends to bring him to Tucson. “I knew Coach Snowden for four years when he was the assistant coach at Michigan,” Elliott said. “Also, the athletic director at Arizona was Dave Strack, and he used to be the basketball coach at Michigan. The first basketball camp I ever went to was the Dave Strack Basketball Camp at Concordia College (at Ann Arbor). One of Coach Snowden’s assistant coaches was Ken Maxey, a star point guard for Michigan who I watched play in Ann Arbor. At the Dave Strack camp that I was at, Coach Maxey was my counselor. So there were a lot of connections.”
The recruitment of Harris was by chance when former assistant Jerry Holmes came upon him after returning to his Pennsylvania home following Arizona’s first season. “I’m reading the paper and Ticky Burden and Mike Sojourner (Utah legends from the East coast) were in a game at a small church basement in Spring, Pa. I thought, ‘What the hell, I’ll go down there,'” Holmes said. “There’s a guy on the court shooting and he has a cast on his leg. I’m thinking, ‘My God, look at this.’ So when he bounces the ball, he catches it with one hand and then he shoots, and then he catches the ball.” Holmes located the coach of the team, Juan Baughn of Chester (Pa.) High School, in the stands. “I said, ‘My God, who is that kid out there with the cast on? He can’t miss. This is unbelievable,” Holmes said. “He said, ‘That’s Herman Harris.’ I got to talking with Herman and went after him tooth and nail. Florida State was after him. Everybody was after him. I didn’t know if I had a chance but I wanted to go after him. So later on, I’m in my office at Arizona and I call Coach Baughn and I asked him if there is anything new on Herman. He said, ‘You really want Herman? I said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to get him.’ He said, ‘Okay, I’ll tell you what. Here’s what you do. …’ Len Gordy was thinking of going to LaSalle. Baughn said, ‘Here’s how you get Herman, call Len Gordy and offer him a scholarship.’ I called Gordy and offered him a scholarship and 10 minutes later, Herm called and said, “I’m coming.’ That’s how it all came about.”
Harris recalled meeting Holmes that day he was taking the shots on one foot and was drilling most of them. “I broke my foot about a couple games before the state finals so I had a cast on that whole summer,” Harris said. “They wanted me to sit down and rest, but I thought, ‘This will heal.’ I was just out there messing around and people were watching me. It wasn’t a big deal because the season was over. The guys were just out there playing summer ball.” Harris added that he and Gordy wanted to be a package deal for a university. “We told our coach, ‘If we’re going away from home, we don’t know anybody,'” he said. “The Big Five schools in Philadelphia wanted Lenny and I visited Florida State and Utah, and I didn’t like it because I didn’t know anybody. When I got the call that Arizona wanted Lenny also, that was great. We came out here to Tucson. We decided this is the place for us.” Harris added the appeal of playing for Snowden, the first black head coach at a major college program, enhanced his decision. “Coming from an all-black high school and having black coaches through my years, that was a factor,” he said. “He had just came to Arizona the year before so we knew we could get playing time. Also, on our recruiting visit, I had the cast off by then and we were able to play with the guys on the team and we fit in really well. It was great.”
Comment: Bob Elliott, one of only 119 collegians with at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career, belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Arizona hoops and Harris is one of the best perimeter shooters in program history. When Arizona lost to UCLA 82-66 in the 1976 Elite Eight game, Class of 1972 recruits Al Fleming and Jim Rappis, Elliott and Harris, and Class of 1974 signee Phil Taylor started and logged an average of 36.2 minutes in that game. The Bruins pulled away in the last 10 minutes when Arizona became fatigued and Rappis was slowed by his foot injury suffered against UNLV in the Sweet 16 game. The first two stellar recruiting classes of Snowden in 1972 and 1973 did not include a player from the West coast. With Elliott being one of Arizona’s best along with the significant contributions of Harris and others, this class of 1973 deserves a 9 out of 10 rating.
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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.