Blair out to show hometown crowd he picked the right sport

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Think Joseph Blair is nervous about returning to his hometown of Houston to play the Cougars Saturday?

"I'd better have a good game or I'm going to shoot myself after the game," Blair said, adding his weapon of choice would be a dart gun.

Tomorrow's game marks the first time Blair, a 6-foot-10, 265-pound senior, has played in Houston since he was recruited by Arizona out of C. E. King High School. He already had 16 tickets for the game, and was looking for more, but he said he wasn't worried about accommodating his family and friends.

"If it's the same UH I knew when I left, there'll be plenty of tickets to buy," he said.

Yes, Blair is seeking a little payback in the Lone Star State for what he perceives as a lack of respect when he played there. Despite being named Texas Player of the Year by the Texas Sportswriters' Association and Texas Association of Basketball Coaches his senior year, he knew what sport ruled in Texas.

"When I was recruited in Texas, I told all the Texas coaches I didn't want to go to school there," Blair said. "I didn't want to stay in Texas. I got no recognition the whole time I was there. It's a football state, and when they recruited me I told them that."

With Blair's size and weight, football coaches did persuade him to play on the gridiron, and made him a tackle on the offensive line in junior high school. Blair gave that a try for a two years, but when he wanted to move to tight end, the coaches said no.

That was the end of Blair's football career, as he decided to stick with basketball.

"I figured I wasn't going to get any girls playing tackle, because nobody wants linemen, so I said I wasn't going to play anymore," he said. "I wanted to play tight end and they kept me at tackle, so I wasn't going to play. I wasn't going to beat up my knees and not get any recognition."

The importance of this game for Blair is not lost on the team.

"It's JB's hometown, we want to represent him well," Reggie Geary said.

"I'm sure he's excited to see his family and friends," head coach Lute Olson said. "I think he'll get more excited once we land in Houston."

Despite his reasons for leaving Texas, Blair wants to put on a good show for his loved ones.

"I'm really looking forward to it, this is my chance to come home and see the old folks, the people I went to high school with," he said. "Hopefully everyone will be there, and I'll get a chance to show them how much I've grown as a player and as a person."

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