Hassan's mom: the real expert on UA hoops

By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Before filling out a new bracket after the upset-insanity that was the first weekend of the 2005 NCAA Tournament - don't even pretend you saw Bucknell over Kansas coming - fans may want to consult the experts.

College hoops junkies would be wise to not turn on ESPN just yet. Proclaimed college basketball experts will likely say Arizona would have a difficult time beating Duke or North Carolina, whom the Wildcats could face if they made it to the title game. But the smart bracketologist should hold off on taking the advice of Dickie V and Andy Katz for right now because it is time to hear from the ultimate expert: Mom.

"I think Illinois will be a good matchup for us, but Duke and UNC no," says a confident Connie Adams, mother of junior forward Hassan, dismissing the comment that Duke or UNC would give the Wildcats trouble should they face either team.

"They only have (UNC center) Sean May. We have Channing Frye," she adds.

Adams has been well traveled this year, she says, driving to Tucson from her Los Angeles-area home for almost every home game in McKale Center and also traveling to the road games at Washington and at Stanford because, according to her, those were important games to go to.

Sitting in a red, white and black sweatsuit, Adams was chatting it up with the UA contingent at the Boise airport after the Wildcats' first- and second-round wins in the NCAA Tournament, shortly before catching a flight home to Southern California. After fans sitting in the terminal slowly realized who she was, they begin to pick her brain, with questions ranging from the play of the Wildcats this past weekend to the possibility of her son leaving early for the NBA draft.

"The team is good enough to get to the Final Four. I know they are," she says.

After two lopsided wins in the first two rounds of the tournament, the Wildcats advance to the Sweet 16 in Chicago to face Oklahoma State.

If Arizona wins that game, it will play two days later in the Elite Eight against the winner of Thursday's match-up between Illinois and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

A victory in that game would send them to St. Louis for the Final Four.

"I thought they played well as a team," she says about the Wildcats' two wins this weekend in Boise, Idaho. "I thought they communicated well with each other."

"Our guy Kirk, he came on. I was happy for him," Adams adds of Arizona sophomore center Kirk Walters' career-high eight-point, three-rebound effort in Saturday's 85-63 win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

And what about that dunk Hassan had in the UAB game, where he basically flew over all five UAB players to throw the ball down?

She shakes her head, then smiles.

"Some of those dunks he does just amazes me in itself," she said.

The mother in her creeps out, saying she worries most that one day someone will come underneath him while he's sky-high for a dunk and end up injuring him.

But should the Wildcats get to St. Louis, they could face Washington for a fourth time this season, and this time it would be in the Final Four with a berth in the NCAA championship game on the line.

"If they had to play Washington again, I think they'll be ready," she says.

The Huskies have won two of three against the Wildcats this season, including an 81-72 win in the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament title game, a win that undoubtedly earned Washington its No. 1 seed in the Albuquerque bracket.

Finally, one fan asks Connie the burning question on the minds of many Wildcat fans: Will Hassan stay at Arizona next year, or will he leave early for the NBA?

"He told me he would (stay), so we'll see what happens. He likes college."

Adams says she enjoyed her time in Boise even though she was really cold the whole time. She adds that she was looking forward to getting to back to the milder Southern California weather.

For now, she will return back to work for a few days, where she will face more questions from co-workers trying to get the inside scoop for the office pool.

"They always ask me, 'What do you think?' I tell them I have no opinion."

Well, Connie won't say her national champion, but like all good experts - and mothers - she is careful to never reveal all her secrets.