Arizona Daily Wildcat November 24, 1997
Jason Terry could probably start at any other school in the Pacific 10 Conference. He could probably be the player of the year in a lot of conferences.
Instead, the junior guard is a sixth man on the defending national champion Arizona basketball team. And that's okay by him.
"I have to do the exact same thing I did last year," Terry said. "I'm going to come off the bench, provide a spark, play great defense, and knock down the open shot."
When it comes to playing defense and knocking down clutch shots, no one does it better than the 6-foot-2, 169-pound Terry. Case in point: The NCAA championship game against Kentucky. Terry came down the court with UK up two and just over seven minutes to play in the game, hit a three and seized momentum back for UA.
"I'm not sure we had anyone that was more of a clutch player than Jason Terry last year," Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. "His ability to come off the bench and give us the immediate spark on both offense and defense is a talent that very few people h ave."
Already, the accolades are rolling in.
Terry was named Athlon's preseason Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. That's after a season in which he set an Arizona single season record with 85 steals. Still, Terry is reluctant to call himself the best.
"I just don't know," he said. "But if I didn't put myself up there I'd be cutting myself short."
Terry, obviously, is not simply about defense. He started 18 games last year, none after Miles Simon returned to the lineup, and averaged 10.6 points a game and dished out three assists per game.
"J.T. wasn't a starter but he was a finisher," Olson said. "I can't think of a game that he wasn't in there at the finish."
Put it all together, and you've got arguably the nation's best sixth man.
"I don't know about that," Terry said, smiling. "But I'm one of the best."
All that game, and confidence too. Oh, and don't forget the NCAA ring and the recognition that comes from performing that well in the sport's ultimate spotlight.
"Everybody wants us now. At shopping malls everybody notices, even in Seattle," said Terry in reference to his hometown. "I've even been asked to do body part signings."
As for which body parts, Terry is silent. That's in contrast to his voracious recruiting ability. According to Olson, Terry has become UA's best vocal recruiter. Perhaps it has something to do with knowing that after this year, Miles Simon, Michael Dicker son, Bennett Davison and - most likely - Mike Bibby will be playing professionally somewhere.
"We lose a lot next year," Terry said. "I just feel that with myself and A.J. (Bramlett) returning we have to reload. I'm doing my best to show them a good time, and it's working. I think it's the sunshine. It could be the national championship."
There is business to be taken care of now, though.
"First things first. We've got the Maui," Terry said. "And then it's the Pac-10 championship because it's been a while since it's been here."
How about the national championship?
"This team wants to win and repeat so bad," Terry said. "No one is satisfied with one championship. We want two."
There is something else Terry would like two of as well.
"Every night before I go to sleep," said Terry, who is known for sleeping in his uniform before games, "I still think about how we beat Kansas and how nice it would be to beat them again come December."