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February 27, 2013

Los Angeles area significant to Arizona hoops

LOS ANGELES -- Wildcat Senior Day is officially March 9, when Arizona State visits McKale Center. But senior forward Solomon Hill begins something of a Senior Week with Wednesday's game at USC.

Arizona basketball owes a debt of gratitude to the greater Los Angeles area. Lute Olson laid the foundation for his basketball kingdom, tapping into his Long Beach State/Long Beach City College past and recruiting the L.A. area heavily in his first year at UA.

Rolf Jacobs, John Edgar, Bruce Fraser - all were from the metroplex. Pacific Palisades product Steve Kerr would go on to become the first star in the rich Olson history of UA basketball.

Hill was part of a trio whose story is already well documented. Along with Derrick Williams and Momo Jones, Hill was a recruit of former USC head coach Tim Floyd.

Floyd's false start hire to replace Olson in 2009 started a chain reaction; Floyd ended up at UTEP, leaving USC amid NCAA scandal; former UA assistant and interim head coach Kevin O'Neill landed at USC; and former Xavier head coach Sean Miller began his tenure with three former Floyd recruits.

Consider it a receipt for USC hiring Larry Smith away from the Wildcats football program in the late 1980s.

Were it not for his recruitment there, Hill already has strong ties to USC. A Fairfax High School product, his neighborhood is just a quick shot from Santa Monica Boulevard and down the 110 to the Galen Center. In fact, the Galen Center hosted his high school graduation in 2009.

He should have no shortage of hometown support on hand for what could be a big step to hanging another banner in McKale Center.

The way Kerr helped set the foundation for Olson's era, Hill has been integral in building the Miller era.

"Solomon is the epitome of a self-starter," Miller said. "[Hill is] an incredibly hard worker, somebody who is talented. But his disposition, work ethic, who he is outside the season, has made him what he is today."

What he is heading into is the final stretch of his final collegiate season as the unquestioned leader of a UA team within reach of a Pac-12 Conference championship - maybe more.

Yet, as giving as the City of Angels has been to Wildcats basketball on the recruiting trail, it's been less than accommodating on the hardwood.

Olson's first conference championship was clinched in L.A. Kerr's last team began a remarkable run of four straight conference titles in 1988, clinching that championship there, as well.

But the streak ended in 1992, in Los Angeles. UA embarked on the SoCal swing a game behind UCLA, with an opportunity to win at least a share of the league crown with two wins.

After dropping the first leg in Pauley Pavilion, Harold Miner led the Trojans to a one-point win. In the two decades since, Tinsel Town has been as welcoming to UA basketball as it is to aspiring actors.

The UA owns just three sweeps in that time, none in Miller and Hill's time as Wildcats.

Kyle KensingKyle Kensing
GOAZCATS.com Staff Writer

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