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Crowning a champion

Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Former men's basketball player Miles Simon was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame on Friday. Simon, a guard on the 1997 national championship team, was named an assistant coach of the Wildcats on July 28.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
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Induction honors 1997 Final Four star Simon

It would be hard to find any player who has meant as much as to the Arizona basketball program as Miles Simon, and for his achievements and accomplishments, the 1997 Final Four Most Outstanding Player was inducted into the University of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame on Friday.

As he stood on the field at halftime of Arizona's Homecoming football game against UCLA the next night, Simon's name was called along with the names of seven other athletes and the 1997 women's swimming 200-yard freestyle relay team.

"It was just good to be recognized," he said yesterday. "It was an awesome achievement. I was thinking about all the good times I had here at U of A, and it all just culminated. That topped it off right there."

Arizona men's basketball assistant coach Josh Pastner, a friend of Simon who played with the Wildcats from 1996-2000, said Simon was deserving of the honor because of its integral role in the program's first National Championship.

File photo/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Miles Simon looks to pass over Seton Hall's God Shammgod in the 1997 NCAA tournament en route to Arizona's first school title.

"He's a winner," Pastner said. "He's a tremendous, tremendous player and a tremendous teammate."

Simon participated in the induction ceremony Friday in the Hall of Champions Plaza and then the Lettermen's Breakfast Saturday morning before being honored in front of 55,775 people at Arizona Stadium.

Simon said he could not recall one specific moment during his four years at Arizona that he most vividly remembered.

"(I enjoyed) my overall experience, being involved in the community, the support of the fans, the great friends I've made here," he said. "It's a tremendous opportunity to go to this school."

When Simon first stepped on campus, a freshman from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., he never imagined his name would one day be on the walls of Arizona's Hall of Champions.

"No, I've never thought about it," he said. "I just worried so much about playing ball and doing well on that end, and now that they recognize me, I feel very fortunate."

Miles Simon bio
No. 34 - Guard
6-foot-4 - 190 lbs.
Stockholm, Sweden - Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Career highlights
1997 Final Four Most Outstanding Player
averaged 22 points, 4 rebounds,
3.2 assists in two games
Hit 65-foot buzzer-beater in 1996 to beat No. 5 Cincinnati for Lute Olson's 500th win

When Pastner first met Simon, he said he noticed all the characteristics he thought would make Simon successful.

"He was tough, a leader, a winner," Pastner said. "He just had those things about leadership. Sometimes you have to teach leadership, but with Miles, he had it."

During his senior year in 1998, Simon averaged 17.8 points per game on his way to becoming an Associated Press All-America selection.

In 1997, Simon averaged 22 points a game during the NCAA Tournament as the Wildcats snatched the title away from Kentucky in a final game that ended in overtime, the first in eight seasons.

At the conclusion of his college career, Simon was seventh in Arizona history in points scored, sixth in assists and fourth in 3-pointers made.

It was his role as a teammate, however, that Pastner found most memorable.

"For his teammates, he would go to the end of the world for them," Pastner said. "His inner circle, he has their back. ... You could bring him in the foxhole with you."

Simon was drafted by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the 1998 NBA Draft, where he played one season before playing five more years in other leagues, mostly overseas.

Simon was named an assistant coach of the men's basketball team on July 28.

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