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March 29, 2013
Solomon Hill's No. 44 may never hang in McKale Center along with the banners commemorating all-time Wildcat greats Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Mike Bibby.
However, the contributions he made in his four years wearing Arizona red and blue will resonate through the arena for years to come.
UA was floundering when Hill arrived alongside first-year head coach Sean Miller. That first team has the unfortunate distinction as UA's first to miss the NCAA tournament since 1986, hitting the inevitable bottom that four years of ever-lower seeding and conference finishes yielded.
But a conference championship and two trips to the NCAA Regional round later, the Wildcats are back among college basketball's elite.
"It really hasn't hit me yet that the season is over and I'm done at the University of Arizona," Hill told reporters at the post-game press conference.?"But I'm just thinking back on the season we had, playing with the group of guys that I'm playing with."
Lyons and Hill were instrumental in keeping UA in striking distance of Ohio State. A determined Hill played like he was unprepared for his college career to end, in a second half juncture singlehandedly cutting a 10-point deficit in half.
The forward's thunderous dunk with a foul was the kind of play tailor-made for the "One Shining Moment" montage at tournament's end.
A Lyons 3-pointer and his hoop-and-harm in the final minute brought the Wildcats to the brink of the regional final.
Lyons may not have invested the four years Hill put into reestablishing UA basketball, but his one season of contribution leaves an impression.
"I've got no regrets," Lyons said.?"I played a with a great bunch of guys this whole year who had a lot of faith in me, and I'm just happy they accepted me to come into their program and try to help them win.? So no regrets."
UA's Sweet 16 loss looks like the start of something more for the program. A 2013 signing class of guard Elliott Pitts, highly touted swing man Rondae Jefferson and potentially forward Aaron Gordon awaits.
Hill leaves the program, but he does so with it in much better shape than when he arrived.
"We have the greatest fans in the world.? We have a tradition that's spectacular," Miller said?"Every day that I think we walk into practice or play a game, it's about representing who we are."
Traditions in college basketball are about the names on the front of the jersey. Those don't mean much without the names on the back of the jersey building those traditions.