This weekend doesn’t just mark the end of the regular season for the Arizona Wildcats basketball program; it also marks the end of an era for a pair of seniors.
Back in 2009 when Sean Miller was first hired on as Arizona’s head coach, the first job he had was quickly assembling a recruiting class that he could put on the court together in just a few months. That class turned out to be one of the higher ranked groups in the country, but the on-court success was inconsistent, at best.
Sure, there was Derrick Williams, who translated two really successful seasons and a deep NCAA Tournament run into the number two pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The rest of the group, however, had their bumps and bruises.
There was center Kyryl Natyazhko, who left the program before the start of this season. The Ukrainian was a highly touted prospect coming in, but by the time he left, many wondered if he knew how to play the American brand of basketball. He struggled with the simplest of tasks for three years and it was clear he was not making any positive progress.
Guard Momo Jones had lapses of success but his own problems caused his transfer to Iona. Many fans wondered just how good UA would be today if he had stayed, but the likelihood of his presence on the roster producing a better record than what the Wildcats currently have is wishful speculation at best.
The two players that have stuck around, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom, continue to be big influences on the program, even if the road hasn’t always been smooth over the past four years.
For Hill, the only word that can be used to describe him is versatile. He has progressed each year and has been forced to take on numerous roles during his four years as a Wildcat. He has been asked to play the wing, bang down low as a four, act as a facilitator, and has shown the ability to erupt for a big scoring output.
His play has been one of the main reasons Arizona has even been competitive over the past two seasons. A year ago, he was the only contributor on the roster that could be counted on to produce in some fashion on a nightly basis. He may have an off game sporadically, or his production may not be properly represented by his stat line, but Hill has been the team’s most reliable basketball player since Williams’ departure.
His Arizona career comes full circle this weekend in his final game at McKale. UA fans have grown to appreciate Hill’s game and he will likely receive a huge ovation from the crowd on Saturday.
Parrom’s road has been a bit rockier than Hill’s, but the appreciation shown from the fans this upcoming weekend will likely be similar.
Parrom was originally committed to Miller at Xavier, but chose to follow the coach to Tucson when Miller decided to jump ship. Entering the program with tons of potential, Parrom endeared himself to the fans rather quickly.
On the road at Arizona State in his freshman campaign, Parrom laid out Sun Devils’ guard Ty Abbot as he was about to go up for what appeared to be a very simple layup. When Abbot jumped up into Parrom’s face, the swingman’s only response was an ear-to-ear grin in the face of a very agitated Abbot.
The next day, Parrom tweeted, “No easy buckets,” and he seemingly had a cult-following in Tucson overnight.
After showing flashes of brilliance as a freshman, Parrom displayed progress as a sophomore and looked primed to take off after a strong year. In 2010-11, Parrom shot over 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from long range and improved as a rebounder and distributor. He was also instrumental down the stretch of that regular season (as well as the postseason) and helped take a chunk of the pressure off of Williams over the second half of the 2010-11 campaign.
The following year was supposed to be Parrom’s breakout year. Many saw his potential and believed there was a chance he could eventually work his way into the NBA with his given skill-set. He was supposed to help pick up some of the production left behind by Williams and help lead his team to another tournament run, but the offseason leading up to it was a nightmare for Parrom.
He lost his grandmother to cancer first, which was a big enough blow by itself. Then he found out his mother was fighting cancer as well and losing the battle quickly. Parrom made one last trip to New York so he could be by his mother’s side before she passed, but while paying an old friend a visit, Parrom found himself on the wrong side of a violent situation.
The forward ended up with a bullet in his leg that took away the physical capability of playing basketball any time shortly thereafter. The biggest blow to Parrom’s offseason, however, came just a few weeks after the shooting when his mother ultimately succumbed to cancer. Not only was Parrom physically unable to play, the emotional damage from the loss of his mother and grandmother in such a short period of time took a serious toll on the UA forward.
The following season was a struggle for Parrom that was cut short due to injury after 21 games. The unfortunate turn of events in Parrom’s life has led to him request a hardship waiver to allow him one more year of eligibility, but it would be a serious surprise if that was granted given how much he saw the court last season.
As a senior, Parrom has battled back. He was widely considered one of the best sixth men in the country until Miller inserted him into the starting lineup in order to shake things up. In response, Parrom continues to be one of the more consistent contributors and has proved that he is fully recovered from his rough 2011-12 campaign.
Saturday’s game against the rival Sun Devils will serve as a moment for Arizona fans to show their appreciation to the two players that have been able to stick it out from Miller’s first class at Arizona. Both Hill and Parrom have given a lot to the program and should be credited for helping to keep it afloat the last few years.
Without either player’s contributions, UA basketball wouldn’t be heading in the direction it is. Saturday afternoon will be the last time Arizona fans will be able to witness them play at McKale and the fans should be ready and willing to show their appreciation to each player as they are introduced to the McKale Center crowd for the final time.