With the tip-off to Arizona’s season only 44 days away, we continue with our countdown …
One of the best defensive players in the program’s history — Reggie Geary — wore No. 44 for Arizona. Geary, always confident in his ability and able to back that up, was suffocating with his long arms, quickness and tenacity.
“I am the best defensive player in the history of the school, and I keep telling people that,” Geary, who had 208 career steals, told me with a smile last year. “That was my niche. It’s nice that people still think of me in a good light.”
Before Geary, Harvey Mason wore No. 44. Mason made 42.4 percent of three-pointers, which ranks only behind Steve Kerr (57.3), Salim Stoudamire (45.8) and Sean Elliott (42.8) in the UA record book. He also produced the memorable song, “Wild About The Cats” (which, by the way, inspired the name of this Web site).
Harvey Mason’s son, Trey Mason, is a freshman walk-on at Arizona. Trey’s jersey number now that Solomon Hill is in the NBA? 44.
Richard Jefferson, a No. 44 alum, was one of Arizona’s top players in the Wildcats’ run to the NCAA championship game against Duke in 2001. He was chosen to the All-Final Four Team.
Hill wore the number proudly like his predecessors, tallying 1,430 points and 773 rebounds in his career. He ranks in the UA’s top 20 and top 10 in each statistical category, respectively.
Some of the greatest athletes in history wore No. 44, such as Hank Aaron, Jerry West, Reggie Jackson, Jim Brown, Willie McCovey and George Gervin.
“I chose No. 44 because it was always one of my favorite sports numbers,” Geary communicated to me last night from Japan, where he is preparing for his third season as a head coach in the professional league there. “Growing up I was a big baseball guy, and Reggie Jackson was my idol. My basketball jersey was No. 23 in high school, but that number was already taken at Arizona (by Deron Johnson), so I went with my second choice.
“I take great pride in being the first No. 44 at Arizona to get a Nike replica jersey made. Over the years, the number has taken on a greater meaning for me.”
The No. 44 plays a significant part in Geary’s life, including a personal tie to Hill coming to Arizona when Geary was an assistant coach.
“I recognize those who wore the number before me like Harvey Mason and I followed closely with great pride those who wore it after me like Richard Jefferson, who once said I played a part in him picking the number,” Geary said. “(Also) Bret Brielmaier and Solomon Hill, who was my first verbal commitment to the UofA as a coach and now Trey Mason.
“I consider all of us who wore No. 44 as part of a special club and are expected to represent the number proudly.”
Geary in his first season with the Chiba Jets of the National Basketball League in Japan. He coached the Yokohama B-Corsairs to the bj-league championships last season.
Important No. 44 developments for the Wildcats:
— Joe Skaisgir scored 44 points against Hardin-Simmons on Jan. 4, 1962, falling only two points shy of Ernie McCray’s record, which was set two years previously. Coniel Norman also had 44 points at Brigham Young on Jan. 24, 1974.
Countdown to Tip-off Blogs:
— Two of Arizona Wildcats’ best centers — Sean Rooks and Channing Frye — donned No. 45
— 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