One of the most uplifting stories involving the Arizona Wildcats basketball program — the resurfacing of Coniel Norman — continues to have a feel-good theme.
Norman, who holds the unbreakable record of 23.9 points a game in his UA career (1972-74), was out of the public eye for almost 30 years, destitute on the streets of Los Angeles before family members finally found him in 2010.
He traveled back home to Detroit to live in an apartment complex that housed displaced veterans. He became involved with the Southwest Solution’s Green Works project, earning a paycheck as an agricultural worker.
Norman, 60, continues to be involved with Southwest Solution. This May he took part in the agency’s “Stand Down 2013” event in Detroit. About 600 veterans, many of them homeless, were in attendance. The support services offered included housing, job training, employment, education, legal, governmental, medical screenings, eye exams, mental health and clothing.
“In my opinion, the best two shooters I’ve seen at Arizona are Coniel Norman and Steve Kerr and nobody else comes close,” former UA center Bob Elliott told me in a 2010 interview. “I’ve seen Coniel make 20 jumpers in a row on top of the key at practice.
“Think of this: Coniel averaged close to 24 points a game as a freshman and sophomore, and this was before they put in the three-point line. And a majority of his shots were taken behind that line.”
Arizona’s No. 22 players
Source: UA media relations
Link Richmond, F, 1946-49
Honon Thomas, F, 1949-50
Gayle Smith, G/F, 1950-51
George Roundtree, G, 1951-52
Frank Nogales, F, 1952-53
Bill O’Donald, F, 1954-55
Cal Durand, G, 1956-57
Rudy Garcia, G, 1958-59
Rick Dienes, G/F, 1959-60
Keith Frye, G, 1961-62
Charlie Cook, G, 1962-64
Buddy Doolen, G, 1962-65
Nyal Leslie, G, 1965-66
Bradley Greene, G, 1966-68
Larry Rote, G, 1969-70
John Bradley, F, 1971-72
Coniel Norman, G/F, 1972-74
Tom Ehlman, G, 1974-75
Tim Marshall, F, 1975-78
Ray Donnelly, F/G, 1978-80
Greg Cook, F, 1980-1982
Greg Scott, G, 1982-83
Ken Ensor, G, 1983-84
Bruce Fraser, G, 1984-87
Ray Owes, F, 1992-95
Jason Gardner, G, 2000-2003
Jason Gardner wore No. 22 for Arizona almost 30 years after Norman graced the number. Nobody else will ever wear the number again because of Gardner’s exploits.
Gardner, the highest scoring guard in UA history with 1,984 career points, shares the distinction with Damon Stoudamire as being the only Wildcats who scored at least 1,900 points in their career with at least 600 assists. Gardner had 622 assists. Damon Stoudamire finished with 663 assists and 1,960 points.
Stoudamire is in his first season as an assistant under Sean Miller at Arizona. He previously was at Memphis on the staff of former UA guard and assistant coach Josh Pastner. Gardner replaced Stoudamire as part of Pastner’s staff at Memphis.
Gardner is already paying dividends for Pastner. Former UCLA commit Trevon Bluiett, from Gardner’s hometown of Indianapolis, has reopened his recruitment and is considering Memphis because of Gardner and Pastner.
Gardner was inducted into the Pac-12’s Hall of Honor last March.
“I think it is amazing,” Gardner told me. “It goes to show all the hard work and dedication that you put in, the amount of hours late at night in the gym. I just think that being a part of this is something that I have never even thought of. It’s so amazing.”
One other No. 22 deserves mention: Ray Owes, Mr. Consistency for the 1993-94 Final Four team. He averaged 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds that season. His career marks were 9.8 points and 6.1 rebounds a game, but he averaged only 22.1 minutes a game. If he averaged 32 to 35 minutes a game, Owes would have averaged a double-double in his career.
Countdown to Tip-off Blogs:
— Arizona Wildcats No. 23 players historic in different ways
— No. 24 in Arizona Wildcats history one for the statistical record books
— Steeeeeeeeve Kerrrrrrrr!!!!
— A look at the greatest takeaways from Arizona Wildcats’ Red-Blue Scrimmage
— A look at past, future today with Arizona Wildcats’ Red-Blue Scrimmage
— Arizona Wildcats’ Aaron Gordon vying to become third freshman to win Pac-12 player of year
— Ernie McCray did more than score for Arizona Wildcats
— Arizona Wildcats’ No. 31 not retired with Jason Terry’s name but should be
— No. 32 most storied jersey number in Arizona Wildcats history
— No. 33 in Arizona Wildcats history symbolic of hard work ethic, ideal role players
— Simon says: No. 34 special with two of Arizona Wildcats’ greatest wearing jersey number
— If Arizona Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski has field-goal percentage like Jud Buechler, UA will be fine
— Arizona Wildcats legend Sean Elliott scored career-high 36 points opposing Sean Miller
— Nick Johnson looks to improve perimeter shooting, limit turnovers
— Jordin Mayes hoping to return to shooting form earlier in Arizona Wildcats career
— 39 days and counting toward Arizona Wildcats’ season
— Joe Skaisgir best Arizona Wildcats basketball player you’ve never heard of
— Nick Johnson looks to improve FG percentage while Arizona Wildcats limit opponents
— Chris Mills, A.J. Bramlett reached Arizona Wildcats stardom via different paths, roles
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— Fantastic Four who wore No. 44: Jersey special for Arizona Wildcats program
— 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