Day No. 45 in our countdown toward Arizona’s hoops season provides a means to honor two of the best post players to wear that jersey number for Lute Olson and the Wildcats.
Sean Rooks and Channing Frye are two of the most efficient shooters and scorers at the post in Arizona basketball history.
Rooks was difficult to defend on the blocks as Stanford’s Adam Keefe can attest to because Rooks made a game-winning bank shot at the buzzer at Maples Pavilion in 1991. Frye was only 25 rebounds away from joining Bob Elliott and Al Fleming as the only Wildcats to score more than 1,000 points and pull down at least 1,000 rebounds in a career.
Olson revealed in his book “Lute!: The Seasons in My Life” that he did not have a close relationship with Rooks during Rooks’ playing career at Arizona. In the same passage, Olson writes that his late wife Bobbi was the opposite, sensing the need to be motherly to Rooks with the head coach riding him all of the time in practice. That’s what made her invaluable to the UA program.
When Bobbi passed away from ovary cancer in 2001, Rooks touched the lighter side of Lute Olson by going to extremes to make her funeral ceremony in Tucson. Rooks had a game that night with the Los Angeles Clippers. He participated in a shoot-around that morning, flew to Tucson for the services and jetted back to Los Angeles in time to play for the Clippers.
“When he had been at Arizona, Sean had done everything possible to resist running around the track,” Olson writes, “but nobody, absolutely nobody, made more of an effort to get back for the memorial more than he did. … That’s the kind of effort I can never forget. Since then, Sean and I have become good friends.”
Olson’s constant prodding of Rooks undoubtedly had an impact on the center exerting himself at the next level and playing 12 seasons in the NBA. Rooks (showing his solid moves in the following video wearing No. 45 for the Wildcats) has become a mentor for many NBA players and aspiring youths, serving as a coach and personnel development director.
He is an inspiration for inner-city youths with his background of growing up in New York City.
“Anybody who is a positive mentor who can give back and find just one or two kids that you can set in the right direction, I am for it all day,” Rooks told LatinoWeeklyReview.com in a 2012 interview.’
Frye is another inspirational figure coming back to the Phoenix Suns this season after missing last year with an enlarged heart. Doctors have cleared the 6-11, 245-pound player to get back on the court. The Suns must make a determination for how they will incorporate him.
Frye, who has played seven years in the NBA, spent last season spearheading efforts of the Frye Family Foundation, which included making young athletes aware of potential heart problems. He believes he has much to offer Phoenix’s younger players on the court.
“What I can bring is to just set a good example for the young guys,” Frye told BrightSideoftheSun.com earlier this month. “To show them this is how hard you have to work every day to win. You can’t just lift the first month of the year, you gotta lift every month of the year.
“You can’t just shoot when you’re not shooting well, you gotta shoot every day. You have to be a robot. That was the thing that made all the great players great, they were consistently hard workers.”
No. 45 developments of note with the Arizona program:
— Damon Stoudamire, now an assistant with the Wildcats, scored 45 points at Stanford in 1995. The mark ranks behind Ernie McCray’s school record of 46 points but tops the UA in Pac-12 games.
— Stoudamire’s cousin, Salim Stoudamire, shot 45.8 percent (342 of 747) from three-point range in his career with Arizona from 2001-05. That ranks only behind Steve Kerr’s school record of 57.3 percent.
— Arizona junior guard Nick Johnson has 45 steals in Pac-12 games, which is far from Hassan Adams’ record of 140. But Johnson and backcourt mate T.J. McConnell will pose a threat to the season record of 46 held by Mike Bibby and Adams.
Countdown to Tip-off Blogs:
— Arizona Wildcats great Ernie McCray reminisces about his record-setting 46-point performance
— Arizona Wildcats star recruit should not be compared to Blake Griffin
— Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller on fast track to Pac-12 success
— Things you may not know about Arizona Wildcats point guard T.J. McConnell
— Arizona Wildcats will benefit from presence of Joseph Blair in practice
— Arizona Wildcats preparing for what could be memorable 2013-14 season