Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats 25 years ago today: Simon gains eligibility to play

EDITOR NOTE: AllSportsTucson.com will run a feature this basketball season highlighting what happened 25 years ago on that particular day commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Arizona Wildcats’ national championship. The next in the series is what occurred and what was written concerning the developments of Jan. 10, 1997, when Miles Simon became academically eligible to join the Wildcats for the first time that season. The information gathered is through articles written by beat reporters Steve Rivera (Tucson Citizen) and Javier Morales (Arizona Daily Star), who now write for AllSportsTucson.com

You can access previous stories in this series by clicking on this link.

DATELINE: Jan. 10, 1997, Tucson

He’s back — Miles Simon, that is — and he’s ready to go back to business.

The Arizona junior has rejoined the basketball team in time for tomorrow’s Pac-10 game at Arizona State. He was declared academically eligible today after passing a winter session course in family studies.

He has missed Arizona’s first 11 games this season. Arizona has compiled a 9-2 record and a No. 7 ranking in the Associated Press poll without him.

“It’s a big-time relief to have him back,” Lute Olson said. “It may take a while to settle on a rotation, but we are going to be a better team with him.

“The nice thing is we have a lot of flexibility with this team. We now have nine guys and plan to utilize everyone.”

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He will be in a game uniform for the first time since last year’s Sweet 16 game against Kansas in the Western Regional.

“I’ve been ready since Octobert 15th, waiting for my first game,” Simon told the media earlier this week.

Now, he’ll have a chance to prove if he’s ready, and the chance comes in front of a large audience. There will be more than 12,000 fans on hand — plus regional TV coverage — for tomorrow’s game.

In anticipation of Simon’s return, Olson had been using him in the top rotation in practice this week. Olson had also done this three weeks ago before Arizona’s game with Michigan, but Simon was academically ineligible.

Before the Michigan game, Simon said he felt comfortable playing with the starters and top reserves after playing most of the time with the scout team.

“They are a special group of guys,” Simon said then.

Olson said Simon will not start.

“But you probably won’t see a lot of minutes go by until Miles gets in the game,” Olson said.

Simon was a starter last season, averaging 13.2 points a game, and his return will give Arizona an added edge in depth and experience.

“He is a strong leader to have on the court, and having him back is vital to the success we want to have,” Olson said.

— Steve Rivera

* * * * *

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Frow now on, the only questions asked of Miles Simon will be basketball-related, or at least he hopes that is the case.

“I go to the mall, and all I’m asked is, ‘When are you coming back?'” said Simon, a junior guard at Arizona.

Simon, who said today received an “A” in a family studies course during the winter sessions is eligible to play tomorrow against ASU in Tempe.

Lute Olson believes that anyone who insinuates Simon will adversely affect the rotation, “does not know anything about basketball” because of Simon’s status as captain and his leadership qualities.

Arizona’s coaches suggest the core of the rotation — Michael Dickerson, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Bennett Davison, A.J. Bramlett and Donnell Harris — will have minimal minutes taken away.

“I don’t think there will be any problems,” Bibby said. “We all know what Miles means to this team.”

Throughout the ordeal, Simon says he has become more mature. He said he understood the scrutiny.

“Maybe the public doesn’t know everything behind the scenes,” Simon said. “They only know what’s in the paper or what they see on TV. They don’t know everything in the background.”

— Javier Morales

Arizona Wildcats 1996-97 Men's Basketball Schedule

DateRankOpponentResultSite
11/22/96197 North Carolina

Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic
W 83–72Springfield (MA)
11/26/9611Northern ArizonaW 88–70McKale Center
11/30/961119 New MexicoL 84-77Albuquerque (NM)
12/7/96153 Utah

John Wooden Classic
W 69–61Anaheim (CA)
12/9/961513 TexasW 83–78McKale Center
12/14/968Jackson StateW 111–83McKale Center
12/21/9664 MichiganL 73-71 OTAuburn Hills (MI)
12/28/969Robert Morris

Fiesta Bowl Classic
W 118–54McKale Center
12/30/969Penn

Fiesta Bowl Classic
W 93–51McKale Center
1/2/979CaliforniaW 81-80McKale Center
1/4/97921 StanfordW 76-75McKale Center
1/11/977ASUW 92-84Tempe
1/16/976USCL 75-62Los Angeles
1/18/976UCLAL 84-78 OTLos Angeles
1/23/9711Oregon StateW 99-48McKale Center
1/25/9711OregonW 88-66McKale Center
NEXT
1/30/97Washington StatePullman (WA)

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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.

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