To the 2013-2014 Arizona Wildcats basketball team:
Thank you, Sean Miller, and the rest of the coaching staff for assembling one of the most entertaining teams we have ever seen. Your team won over Tucson’s heart and it was a beautiful sight to see as the year went on.
I have been an Arizona Basketball fan my whole life. My dad has raised me as a Wildcat since I was born and I have been attending games at McKale and around the country for as long as I can remember. I have watched games as painful as Illinois in the Elite Eight in 2005 to games as pleasing as beating Duke in the Sweet Sixteen in 2011. I knew what Arizona Basketball was all about before I officially stepped foot on campus as a student this past August. It has been amazing watching the rest of the student body realize how special “#APlayersProgram” really is.
Thank you. Nick Johnson, the leader of this fantastic team. Watching you grow from your freshman to junior years has been a real joy. Your highlight reel dunks, clutch shots and signature swats against the backboard are unreal to watch. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. You are the man. You are a picture-perfect example of a classic Arizona Basketball player. Congratulations on earning Pac-12 Player of the Year, and everyone in Wildcat Nation wishes you good luck in the NBA, as that is where you are most likely heading.
Thank you, T.J. McConnell. Your fiery passion is contagious. After sitting out last season, there is no doubt you were worth the wait and made an outstanding decision to transfer from Duquesne. You are one of the most unselfish players I have ever seen step foot on a basketball court. I cannot wait to watch you lead next year.
Thank you, Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. It could be so easy for 18-year-old kids to get caught up in the stardom but you two are possibly the most levelheaded freshmen I have ever witnessed. You guys are winners. Whether you leave for the NBA or not, thank you for the memorable dunks and for allowing me to be able to say I was in the same freshman class as you two at the University of Arizona. If you do decide to come back, I cannot wait to watch you improve even more.
Thank you, Brandon Ashley. Watching you go down with a broken foot on Feb. 1 was heartbreaking. This team rallied for you and had to make some tough adjustments without your presence on the court. Your commitment to support your teammates given your physical state was awesome. Get that foot better because you will be a candidate for the Pac-12 Player of the Year next season. #4BAshley.
Thank you, Kaleb Tarczewski. Your skill progression from freshman to sophomore year was extremely noticeable and I really hope you stay another year to watch you get even better. Hearing “ZEEEEUUUUUUUUSSSSSS” throughout McKale is one of the cooler traditions we currently have. It would be a pleasure to hear that next year. Hope to see you then, Big Man.
I would like to thank Jordin Mayes, the lone senior on this Wildcat team. Thank you for sticking with the program and embracing your reserve role. You were huge in the NCAA tournament your freshman year and were always very reliable to give some good minutes. Best of luck, wherever you end up.
Thank you, Gabe York and Elliot Pitts. After sitting out most of last season, you were huge this year, Gabe. Especially after Brandon went down. Thank you for sticking with the program and being a key role player this year. A big thank you also to Elliot for being patient and playing great minutes after Brandon went down with an injury. You both are fantastic shooters who have lots of potential. See you both next year.
Thank you, Matt Korcheck, Zach Peters, Jacob Hazzard, Drew Mellon, Chris Johnson, and Trey Mason. You were all superb teammates. The “bench mob” reactions were so entertaining to watch every time the team made an outstanding play. Your names will be in Arizona Basketball history forever.
I would like to give a humongous thank you to the only player I have yet to mention, Eric Conklin, one of my personal best friends since kindergarten. Eric could have played at a lower division school and been a role player, but instead decided to walk-on for Arizona and be a reserve on a top team. It doesn’t seem too long ago we were playing together on the YMCA Raiders in fourth grade, watching you throw up shot after shot, getting rebound after rebound, until finally the ball went in. Now you play for one of the most elite programs in the country. It has been incredible watching you grow into the person and player you are today. You are easily the most disciplined and toughest person I have met. You are not only a great friend but also a great role model.
It was always my dream growing up to play basketball for the Arizona Wildcats. Obviously, I did not quite have the skill to achieve that goal. Having you on the team is the best alternative. I have watched many incredible players wear an Arizona uniform over the years, but you my friend, are my favorite Wildcat of all time. Thank you, Big E.
Lastly, I would like to thank The Fans. The Wildcats would not be who they are without you. The ZonaZoo is the best student section in the Pac-12 and among the best in the nation. The sounds of the classic “U-of-A” chant throughout stadiums around the country will never get old. Everywhere is Wildcat Country because of your fantastic support. I know I can speak on behalf of any Wildcat fan that the memories made this year were unforgettable. Arizona Basketball never stops, and it will be back next season.
See you all at the Red-Blue Scrimmage in Mid-October.
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