Gardner’s No. 22 retired but Norman, Owes also wore number admirably for Arizona Wildcats


One of the most uplifting stories involving the Arizona Wildcats basketball program — the resurfacing of Coniel Norman — continues to have a feel-good theme.

Coniel Norman is in his third year with a program in Detroit that benefits displaced veterans through work programs and other assistance

Coniel Norman is in his third year with a program in Detroit that benefits displaced veterans through work programs and other assistance

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.

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