Arizona is doing the right thing, the commendable thing, to help bring the public attention to what the late, legendary Fred Snowden means to the basketball program.
The school is also bringing back awareness of the historic days of Arizona basketball at Bear Down Gym, another much-needed element for the program as time goes on.
Arizona announced Friday that the late Al Fleming, a member of Snowden’s first recruiting class in 1972 — the Kiddie Korps — and Tucson High great Ernie McCray, who set the school’s scoring record in a 1960 game at Bear Down Gym, will be inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime of the Feb. 27 game in the McKale Center against Washington.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place, the induction will be a virtual ceremony. The families of both inductees will be invited to the McKale Center for a formal in-person induction ceremony at a later date.
Fleming’s mother Arizona — yes, his mom’s name is Arizona — and siblings Rhonda, Evelyn, Robert and Lester still reside in his hometown Michigan City, Ind., and are expected to take part in both ceremonies.
Fleming, who passed away at 49 years old in 2003, played at Arizona from 1972-76 and still holds the school record for career double-doubles (53), a stat that was not tracked during his playing days. He also continues to hold the school record for career rebounds (1,190).
At the end of his playing career, he was Arizona’s career leader in scoring with 1,765 points, a total that still ranks 10th in program lore.
“Every time I think of Al, I think of the two of us, No. 54 and No. 55,” said Fleming’s former teammate and roommate Bob Elliott, who wore No. 55. “All three years we were teammates we roomed together on the road. We lived together my sophomore year (when Fleming was a junior). Al was also my best man at my wedding after that sophomore year.
“We’re brothers from another mother. In fact, when Al passed, his mom said I’m now Albert to her. Not to take anything away from (new Arizona football coach) Fisch, it’s personal. This one right here, for Al, it’s personal.”
Fleming, who was born in Michigan City, finished his career averaging 15.5 points and 10.4 rebounds while shooting 58.3 percent from the floor. During his sophomore season in 1973-74, Fleming made 66.7 percent of his shots from the floor to lead the country and tie the NCAA single-season record at the time.
On Jan. 10, 1976, he set the McKale Center record for points scored in a game, registering 41 against Detroit – with 33 coming in the second half. He was named First-Team All-WAC and NCAA First-Team All-District 7 in 1975 and 1976. Fleming was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.
McCray lettered from 1957-60 and set 12 school records during his senior season and became the first African-American men’s basketball player to graduate from Arizona.
In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune last year, after it was first announced McCray will be added to the Ring of Honor, McCray said he believed he deserved that distinction.
“I thought, ‘How is there a Ring of Honor and I’m not in it?’ ” said McCray, who resides in San Diego. “It wasn’t like I thought I was all that, but I knew I was a good player. I never would bring it up to anyone, though, so I kind of dismissed the idea after that.”
The Tucson native finished his career averaging a double-double — 17.8 points and 10.8 rebounds and was the first player in school history to record 1,250 points and 800 rebounds in a career.
The unanimous First-Team All-Border Conference selection as a senior finished his career holding Arizona records for points in a career (1,349), season (573) and game (46) as well as single-season scoring average (23.8) and most field goals made in a season (198).
His single-game scoring mark set on Feb. 6, 1960 still stands as the most points scored in a game by a Wildcat. McCray was also prolific in his day for getting to the foul line, logging 537 attempts in his career. Following the 1960 season, McCray was named Third-Team NABC All-District. He was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
With the addition of Fleming and McCray, the total number of former men’s basketball players officially inducted into the Ring of Honor climbs to 28. Last year’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Zeke Nnaji has also qualified to be inducted, but an official induction date has not been determined.
“Ernie is another one — nobody has touched that 46 points,” Elliott said. “Even with 3-pointers, shot clocks and everything else, nobody has touched him.
“I think what also helps is the hashtag ‘A Player’s Program.’ So to have a player’s program means you need to embrace the history and go back as far as you need to go. This is great for Al and Ernie. They both accomplished something that we may never see in our lifetime, and they’re great people. That’s a win-win.”
Another move Arizona must make, without question, is retire Elliott’s jersey No. 55 in the rafters at McKale Center.
He is one of only 118 college players in the history of the game to achieve at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. He broke Fleming’s school scoring record with 2,131 points in 1977 and held that distinction until Sean Elliott (no relation) passed it in 1989 with 2,555.
Arizona Men’s Basketball Ring of Honor Inductees
Here are the 27 players listed in order of enshrinement:
Bob Elliott, C, 1974-77
Steve Kerr, G, 1984-88
Sean Elliott, G/F, 1986-89
Jud Buechler, F, 1987-90
Sean Rooks, C, 1989-92
Chris Mills, F/G, 1991-93
Khalid Reeves, G, 1991-94
Damon Stoudamire, G, 1992-95
Miles Simon, G, 1995-98
Jason Terry, G, 1996-99
Mike Bibby, G, 1997-98
Michael Wright, F, 1999-2001
Richard Jefferson, F, 1999-2001
Jason Gardner. G, 2000-03
Luke Walton, F, 2000-03
Salim Stoudamire, G, 2002-05
Gilbert Arenas, G, 2000-01
Channing Frye, C, 2002-05
Chase Budinger, F, 2007-09
Derrick Williams, F, 2010-11
Andre Iguodala, F, 2003-04
Aaron Gordon, F, 2014
Nick Johnson, G, 2012-14
Stanley Johnson, G, 2015
Jerryd Bayless, G, 2008
Deandre Ayton, F, 2018
Al Fleming, 1972-76
Ernie McCray, 1956-60
The qualifications to be inducted into the Ring of Honor are as follows:
- First Team All-America recognition by one or more of the major national organizations or media
- Major national “player of distinction”, e.g. Heisman, Wooden, etc.; and/or national championship Most Valuable or Outstanding Player distinction
- Pac-10/12 Player of the Year or Pac-10/12 Freshman of the Year; and Pac-10/12 Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year
- Arizona Career leader in 3 or more major positive “career” categories at the conclusion of their collegiate career, must hold the career record for a minimum of 5 years (e.g., does not include single game record(s), minutes played, etc.)
- 10+ years in the United States Major Professional Leagues of the NFL, NBA, WNBA and MLB and/or been selected as an All-Star/All Pro by the official league
- Olympic Medalist
Information provided by the University of Arizona contributed to this report.
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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.