JERRYD BAYLESS SPENT A SINGLE SEASON AT U OF A, AND IT WAS A SPECTACULAR ONE.

The Wildcats went much of the year without legendary coach Lute Olson, who took a surprising leave of absence in December 2007, and faced a good deal of adversity, finishing with a 19-15 overall record. They also featured two other future NBA players, sophomores Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill.  But as his freshman season progressed, Jerryd showed that he possessed NBA-level ability as well.

Video courtesy of University of Arizona Men’s Basketball.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Olsen was very high on Jerryd — a local product and one of his star recruits — to start the year, singing his praises in an October 18, 2007, pre-season report.

“The big thing about Jerryd is that he is a basketball player,” Olson said. “With our motion offense, he is going to be in a number of positions for us. Jerryd is a scorer who makes good decisions. He can easily play either guard position.”

Jerryd proved Olson right. By February of 2008, he had emerged as one of the team’s leaders, and after his third-straight 30-point game, he was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week. As the press release noted, his performances during that stretch spoke for themselves.

Bayless, a 6-foot-3, 199-pound guard, averaged 32.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in two games last week. The freshman from Phoenix, Ariz., hit 16-of-36 (.444) shots from the floor, including 5-of-13 (.385) from three-point range, to go with 26-of-28 (.929) from the free throw line and five steals.

He has now scored more than 30 points in the last three games, including a 39-point effort vs. Arizona State on Feb. 10, to become the first player in Arizona history to register three consecutive 30-point games. He opened the week with 33 points, four assists and a career-high three steals in a win over California before following that with 31 points, five rebounds and six assists against Stanford. Against the Cardinal, Bayless set an Arizona record for single-game free throw percentage (16-of-16).

All told, it was Bayless’ 19th game in double figures and his fourth 30-point game this year. On the year, he averages 21.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.

FINAL TALLY

Jerryd led Arizona into the NCAA tournament, earning a No. 10 seed and a first-round matchup against West Virginia. But the Wildcats lost the opener to the Mountaineers, 75-65.

He was named an All-America by Sports Illustrated and ESPN.com, and was a nominee for the John R. Wooden Award. His final stats for the year: a team-high 19.7 points, (45.8 FG%, 40.7 3PT%), 4 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.

On April 5, 2008, with the vast majority of basketball writers projecting him as a first round and potential lottery pick, Jerryd declared for the NBA Draft.

“I’ve thought carefully about my options since the end of the season, discussed it with my parents and others who could give me appropriate guidance, and made this decision with a clear mind. I’m going to turn professional. It’s the right time for me to move on,” he said. “I appreciate the opportunity I had to be part of the Arizona basketball team this year.”

While Olson supported Jerryd’s decision, he did have one regret.

“I’m disappointed because I didn’t have one year to work with him, to coach him,” said Olson. “Jerryd’s going to be a great player in the NBA. He’s an unbelievable kid with great character, and he’s a great competitor…I wish him nothing but the best of luck and I know he will represent the University of Arizona and the state of Arizona very well in the future.”