Ex-Cat returns to Old Pueblo, joins scout team while rehabbing
You won't find his name on the top of any all-time lists in UA men's basketball history, but no other player may be synonymous with Arizona basketball more than Miles Simon. The consummate team player, Simon led the Wildcats to their first and only NCAA title in 1997. Seven years later, Simon has returned to Tucson. He chatted with the Daily Wildcat after a workout with his old team.
Wildcat: What brings you back to the UA?
Simon: Number one, I want to finish my degree. I'm about five or six classes away from getting my degree. Two, I injured my knee. I tore my ACL, MCL, my meniscus. I was fortunate to come back and do my rehab here. They have top-notch facilities that accommodated me during my rehab process. Their facilities are unbelievable.
Wildcat: That's an extensive injury. Isn't that the whole knee?
Simon: Yeah, I tore everything in one shot. I was just playing some pickup ball at my high school, driving to the basket and just blew out my knee.
Wildcat: Pretty painful, I imagine.
Simon: It wasn't that bad. It was very quick. I heard it when it tore, but other than that it wasn't too bad.
Wildcat: How long did it take you to recover?
Simon: It took me seven months to recover to be cleared to play ball again. I was cleared two-and-a-half weeks ago.
Wildcat: Are you full strength?
Simon: I'm at full strength; it's just a matter of getting in shape and getting accommodated to playing ball again. I haven't played in eight months.
Wildcat: You're working out with the practice team now?
Simon: Yeah, I'm working out with the scout team, just getting back in shape and trying to do anything I can to help coach Olson and the guys out.
Wildcat: Now that the knee has recovered, what's the next step?
Simon: Hopefully in a couple of weeks or so, I'll get a good job in Europe and finish out the season over there. That should last me to about late April, early May. Then I'll come back, probably take some summer school and get a little closer to my degree, play summer league and take it from there.
Wildcat: Will you finish your degree this summer?
Simon: I still have five or six classes left, so I am aiming for 2005.
Wildcat: You have played overseas before.
Simon: Yeah, I played in Israel and Italy.
Wildcat: Which is your favorite?
Simon: I loved them both, they are both beautiful countries. But I have to say I loved Italy more just because of the food, the history.
Wildcat: How did they treat you over there?
Simon: Very well, the teams I played for both treated me great. I had a great time.
Wildcat: Did you pick up the language?
Simon: Not really. Italian is similar to Spanish. I took some Spanish in high school and here at the UA. If you can understand a little Spanish it is pretty easy to translate. As I went along it became pretty easy to order food and just understand what my coach was saying. I couldn't really speak it that well but I could understand what people were trying to communicate to me.
Wildcat: You also played in the CBA and had one of the best years in CBA history.
Simon: Yeah I was the most decorated player for a season in CBA history. I won Newcomer of the Year, I won the MVP award and I won the MVP of the playoffs.
Wildcat: Plus you took your team to the finals and pretty much cruised to the championship.
Simon: Yeah, we won the title and had a pretty good year in 2000-2001. It was a lot of fun, it was hard. It was in North Dakota, where it is pretty cold.
Wildcat: How is North Dakota different from Tucson?
Simon: It's just too cold. I'm not a cold weather person. I think the worst it ever got with the wind chill factor was minus 40 (degrees).
Wildcat: Was there a lot of snow?
Simon: For me there was a lot of snow, but for the people who live there they were telling me it wasn't snowing a lot, but there was plenty on the ground.
Wildcat: That was one of your best seasons ever, how do you compare it to your final season at the UA?
Simon: It's hard to say. I had fun doing both. I think college was a little more fun because of the family atmosphere. When you're in the pros you're just kind of on your own.
Wildcat: You also spent some time in the NBA, how was that?
Simon: It was my first year out of college. I enjoyed my time there and it was just fun to be there in the league.
Wildcat: Was there anybody in the NBA who impressed you more than anyone else?
Simon: Nobody really overwhelmed me. It was different seeing the guys playing up close and in person. Most guys I either played against in college or high school or pro summer league.
Wildcat: Was the game faster in the NBA?
Simon: It's faster in the sense that the players are stronger and quicker, but not faster as in up and down the court faster. When you play professionally, the guys play at a controlled speed.
Wildcat: You scored one basket in your career in the NBA. What kind of basket was it?
Simon: It was against the Bulls. I drove to the basket on Brent Barry and scored my lay-up in Chicago.
Wildcat: Can you describe your favorite moment as a Wildcat?
Simon: My favorite moment is winning the title in 1997. Obviously that doesn't happen every year and it's just a special moment. Our team was very fortunate and good at the same time to get to the title.
Wildcat: How much credit do you give to Lute Olson in shaping your career?
Simon: A lot. He's the coach; he's the one who put the system here that the guys follow. He's brought in some great players year after year and he's the one who makes it all work.
Wildcat: Was he the reason you came back? Who contacted whom?
Simon: I had talked to him about it because once I was cleared to play I just wanted to get in shape and I knew that would be the best way, against these guys who are great players. He was very accepting of the idea.
Wildcat: You've been working with the scout team; does anybody from this team or this team as a whole remind you of the championship year in 1997?
Simon: I think it's kind of a different team this year. They have some great individual talents from Hassan and Mustafa, Andre and Channing, Salim. We had more role players who got things done.
Wildcat: Do you still keep in touch with your teammates from 1997?
Simon: Occasionally during the summer, when I run into them at camps or wherever, but not so much by phone anymore.