Celebrating Arizona’s Seniors: Kevin Parrom, Solomon Hill and Mark LyonsPosted by AMurawa on March 8th, 2013
In advance of Arizona’s senior day, Adam Butler of Pachoops.com offers up his thoughts on Arizona’s three big-time seniors getting ready to play their final home game in front of the McKale Center crowd.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Kevin Parrom play. It was mid-December 2009 and the young New Yorker was tentatively back from a foot injury sustained during preseason practice. He’d played just two minutes in the game prior – his season debut – at NC State. There was significant hype around this one; after all, he was touted as the player Sean Miller had been recruiting the longest who had been released from his Letter of Intent to play for him at Xavier. He followed Miller to the desert and became the first Wildcat in the Sean Miller era. Back to the game, many of the details are fuzzy. I can tell you that I’d finagled phenomenal seats and that the final score was a helluva lot to a little. Jimmer Fredette scored many points and my lasting Parrom memory – one of two memories from this game – was his missing of a banked free throw. He’d go 0-of-5 from the line that night. “Indeed a freshman,” I thought. Oh, and my second memory? The four rounds of projectile vomiting I spread through multiple locations across the McKale Center as a result of a bad – nay, miserable – pastrami sandwich from earlier that day. I’d spend the following 36 hours consumption-less, motionless in bed.
OK, so enough about me. Kevin Parrom has lived a life of resiliency. This is the young man that has thrice sustained foot injuries that have kept him out of the lineup for extended periods. That’s rough. But it doesn’t hold a candle to Kevin off the court. The Cliff Notes version will have me tell you that in the course of just a handful of months, Kevin lost his grandmother and mother and survived a murder attempt – a moment he’s reminded of every day with the bullet lodged in his leg. I can’t do the story its due tragic justice, so please, read this. These events were more than a curve ball. They were a Mariano cutter dealt to break this young man. But it didn’t. Kevin Parrom is still here and he plays basketball for Arizona and he plays it well. His style is a direct extension of his coach: thorough, hard nosed, direct, and competitive. An even more direct extension of the woman who raised him, Lisa Williams. Which is the backstory to one of the toughest Wildcats we’ve ever had the privilege to watch; the off court resilience just confirming the player who won’t quit on it. Parrom has played any and every role for the Wildcats, most recently being moved into the starting lineup to better capture the energy he plays with. He’s been the spark Arizona needed on countless nights and is a basketball enthusiast’s dream. One might call him a jack-of-all-trades, master of none; to which I might not argue (although he holds the 34th highest ORtg in the nation). But he’s master of knowing which trade his team needs most and when, an asset any coach would want. Whatever Parrom’s legacy is, he’ll be remembered for his guts and his heart. What more could we have asked for from our first – new – Wildcat?
One of my favorite things about Solomon Hill is that he always wanted to be a Wildcat. He’d committed to Lute Olson early on, setting himself up to play for the legendary coach and work his way into The League. Well that wasn’t in the cards as Olson inconveniently and inauspiciously retired, leaving the program to scramble for its future. Wisely, Hill de-committed from the headless Wildcats. You don’t make the NBA, let alone win ball games, at a school with an unknown future. So he decided to stay home. The next series of events I’ll cite briefly: Miller; $1k to Mayo; Floyd resigns; Hill de-commits; Hill recommits – not necessarily in that order.
And now, just as he initially wanted to be, Solomon Hill will be forever remembered as a Wildcat. And a great one. And while he will be just the second of three four-year Wildcats (Parrom and Kyle Fogg), to only Dance twice – not exactly a desired distinction – he’ll be remembered as Miller’s rock. He helped in guiding the program from how we want to remember it, to what it will become. Without the work and effort to be the talent he is today, where is this program? What does Arizona’s 2011-12 season look like without Hill changing his game to become a four when he was the second tallest rotation player? What does this season look like if Hill understandably rejects the notion that rent-a-PG, Mark Lyons, would be the offensive centerpiece? Hill has been selfless – perhaps to a fault (see 2-of-7 at UCLA this past weekend) – and that has allowed Sean Miller to retrofit Arizona basketball, to build it in his mold. Hill joined the Wildcats amidst change and he’s changed right along with it. Today, four years after stepping onto campus, they’ve each grown for the better.
I feel I’ve had to defend Mark Lyons from the beginning of his brief Arizona career. I was surprised at the skepticism surrounding his joining of a team very thin on the guard front. “You realize there are just three guards on this team, right?” I’d question. Too often it was cited that he was a malcontent and a locker room cancer. And of course the litany of conclusions drawn from his fight with Cincinnati. “Basketball,” I’d laud to them, “He’s good at it.” Which wasn’t to excuse whatever history or baggage he was bringing to Tucson; but I trusted Sean Miller enough to not bring Josiah Turner 2.0 into his growing program. Additionally, Lyons was on his last legs. He’d been granted second life, an opportunity to play with a clean slate and for the coach to whom he’d initially entrusted his career. Arguably, Mark Lyons was coming home. And like I said, maybe there was baggage, but inside that travel gear was also two Sweet Sixteens, 15 PPG, and a lot of grit and toughness – the latter of which were missing from Miller’s young program.
Well only 31 games were guaranteed to Mark Lyons in Tucson. But he’ll wind up playing a couple more than that. Because during this mutual rental agreement we’ve seen it all: highs (Florida! Stanford! Clemson! Miami! ASU!) and lows (@Colorado, @All-of-LA, Utah). But my point, all the season long, has been that Arizona is best when Mark Lyons is Mark Lyons. Which is to say, not a point guard. That’s okay. We knew it coming in that it wasn’t his skill set and that Arizona would be about as good as he’d let them. What we didn’t know was about was the other parts of that baggage. The assumptions and whatever we came up with as we leaped to conclusions. For my money, Lyons has been a pleasure to watch, a shot in the arm for a program and a group that missed a killer instinct or the toughness necessary to do things like come back from last minute deficits; like beat Florida or SDSU and demolish Miami; like rattle off a 14-game winning streak and seize the #3 ranking in the nation. What he’s allowed this group to do is learn. Maybe the curve is steeper than we expected, but in the face of expectations and national scrutiny, Mark Lyons has worn Arizona’s 9-6 record since achieving that 14-0 mark. He’s been the lightning rod this young and impressionable group needed and now, as the season reaches its most critical stages, there will be another moment where Lyons is asked to make the play. A waning clock that needs beating and, for better or worse, Arizona has its man.