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Old School All-Stars

Posted by naterb on January 5, 2009

 When putting together an All-Star team, I wanted to make sure that each of the players had played under Olson for a minimum of two years, and had two years starting. I was a bit lenient on the starting role, so long as they were impact players. Obviously my first two selections were Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott. Kerr & Elliott were the surprise players that skirted under the radar and paid huge dividends for Olson and essentially put the Wildcats on the map.
For the criteria see “Coming Soon


Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr

 Point Guard – Steve Kerr: Kerr wasn’t the type of player that would break you down with his athleticism and footwork, but he was a hard-working and intelligent player. If you stuck strictly to numbers (11.2 ppg, 3.4 apg, and 2.2 rpg) Kerr isn’t the best point guard ever to step foot onto McKale center, but the impact he had on the program was by far the most significant. Kerr led the Wildcats to their first Final Four appearance and held the UA career 3-point percentage title until Salim Stoudamire broke roughly 15 years later.

“…he (Kerr) plays very well. He’s intelligent, shoots the ball well, and is a real leader on the floor.” – Lute Olson

Moment to remember: Four days after the assassination of his father, Kerr stepped onto the court to face ASU in Tucson. Kerr knocked down his first basket, a 25-footer, and went 5-7 from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line to lead the ‘Cats to a 71-49 route of their in-state rivals.





Damon StoudamireShooting Guard – Damon Stoudamire: Stoudamire was more of a point guard, but like many UA guards he played both positions. Stoudamire was a tenacious defender and lightning quick. Despite being undersized, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that if I were to choose a shooting guard, I would want Stoudamire because of his multi-faceted game. He could shoot (over 40% from beyond the arc), break down defenses with his dribble, and played great defense (1.7 spg).


“It was obvious Damon had been well coach. Anytime he stepped on a court he was immediately the leader… He was a human press breaker… Once he got a step on a defender, there was no way anybody was going to catch him.”

Sean Elliott
Sean Elliott


Small Forward – Sean Elliott:  Elliott was the first National Player of the Year (‘89) to come out of Arizona. Elliott was athletic, could shoot, and played solid defense. He was on the ‘88 Final Four team the season before leading Arizona to its first #1 ranking to close-out a season. That ‘89 team lost to UNLV on a buzzer beater in the NCAA Tournament. The two-time All-American and two-time PAC-10 Player of the Year is arguably the best UA player of all time. and was the All-time leading scorer for the University until Hasan Adams broke the record two years ago.


 Power Forward – Tom Tolbert:

I was ready to leave Tolbert off the list because of the problems that he had with Olson and because of incidents like hiding in a mall fountain to get out of running. But in the end, his performance and influence on the program is far too great. He was the guy that, although not the most talented, was a hard-nose player who fought it out during games. I’ll let this excerpt demonstrate the type of player that Tolbert was.

“Tom Tolbert injured his back so badly that we weren’t sure he’d be ready to play… While he played he obviously was hampered. In the first half against North Carolina he managed only one basket, one free throw, and one rebound. At the end of halftime I took him aside and asked him flatly, “Tom, do you really want to go to the Final Four?”

“Yes,” he said, “Yes, sir.”

“Then prove it.”

In the second half the endless battles we’d fought in practice pad off. In the first fourteen minutes of the second half Tolbert personally outscored North Carolina 16-12.”

Interesting Fact: Tolbert’s decision to back out of UNLV and commit to Arizona is was earned Olson the nickname “Midnight Lute.”

Center – Brian Williams (aka Bison Dele): Williams owns the record for best field goal percentage on the season (61.9%), and was a true center. He was hard nosed and big, one of the few true centers that attended Arizona, and arguably the best one of Olson’s tenure. He was the whole package that you want out of a center, big, tall, athletic, and could rebound and block shots with the best of ’em. Unfortunately, he is more known for his mysterious death/disappearance at sea.

Bench Players:

Reggie Geary – Geary was part of the inaugural three-guard lineup, and used his speed, athleticism and long arms to become a defensive menace to other teams.

“Reggie was 6’2” and some games he had to guard a 6’9” forward, but he had very, very long arms and was a great leaper so he could do it.”

Khalid Reeves: Reeves is the remaining guard in the inaugural three-guard lineup (with Geary and D. Stoudamire). Their speed and athleticism was a huge advantage. Frequently the taller guards and forwards were incapable of stopping them which forced teams into a zone. His numbers weren’t great, but he had a huge impact on the program.

Interesting fact: Reeves notified Olson of his commitment to Arizona while conversing through a bathroom stall during an All-Star tournament.

Kenny Lofton: Lofton wasn’t the most talented player for Olson, in fact there are some players that were left off this list that were probably more talented than Lofton was. But Lofton was high energy and a true competitor. He played hard and was lightning quick. I almost knocked him off the list because of his role in the UNLV upset of ‘89 (remember he was the guy that flopped and freed up Anderson Hunt for the game winning 3).

Chris Mills: Mills was a 2-year player for Arizona, after transferring from Kentucky in 1990 he was an instant impact player for Arizona. During his senior season he earned All-American accolades by averaging 20.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Mills also shot 48.4% from beyond the arc.

Jud Buechler: Buechler earns a spot because of his ability to do what the coaches wanted him to, when they needed him to. Perfect example of this is during a game against Iowa in 1987 Buechler came off the bench to replace Sean Elliott who had just fouled out, and hit four consecutive free throws to help the ‘Cats to a 66-59 win. Buechler’s ability to do this is the true definition of what the “Gumbies*” really were.

Ben Davis: Probably one of my more controversial picks for this team. Davis played for Arizona for only two years after transferring from Kansas and Hutchison Community College. Davis earns a spot on this team because during his senior season (95-96) he was the go-to guy. The three-guard lineup had disappeared, and Davis was Arizona’s primary weapon. He led the team with 14.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest and earned All-Conference accolades.

Anthony Cook – Cook has the best all around stats of any center or power forward before 1996. Cook was an honorable-mention All-American during his senior season (‘89) as he averaged 17.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 2.5 bpg. The most impressive thing about it is that he was undersized for a center at 6’9” and 205 pounds. He would often face off against guys significantly larger than he was. Normally I’m not a big fan of undersized centers, but there’s not debating the fact that Cook got it done and for that, he jumps into the starting role.


* Gumbies:

“We’re the Gumbies because we do whatever Coach wants us to do. He bends us this way, he bends us that way. In practice we pretend we’re Iowa, or USC. We’re just disposable and totally manipulated. We’re the Gumbies.” – Bruce Fraser

The Gumbies consisted of Harvey Mason, Matt Muehlebach, Jud Buechler, Sean Rooks, Craig Bergman, Mark Georgeson, and Brian David, and Bruce Fraser.

**All quotes used in this article have been taken from Lute: The Seasons of My Life. If you have not read this book, it is a must-read for all Arizona Wildcats fans.  

Another Great moment in UA’s Old School Vault


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