Let’s not skirt around the issue. It’s been an up and down four years for you, the fanbase, and the program. I don’t think anyone could have expected the maelstrom of instability that was about to happen at Arizona when you were a high school senior.
But in spite of all of that, all the turmoil, all the obstacles, you’re still here. And every true Wildcat fan thanks you for that.
It would have been easy to leave the program when Lute hung up the gloves. But you stuck with us. It would’ve been easy to transfer when you found out that Kevin O’Neill was taking over the reigns. But you stuck with us. And it would have been easy to jump ship when you found out you would be having your third coach in as many years. But you stuck with us, and that’s why we will always stick with you. For all the ultra talented players that have come through the program, very few were as loyal to the program as you. That’s something you can be proud of for the rest of your life, and it’s something no one can take away from you.
So when Jesse Perry took over the starting power forward spot, it was no surprise that you were your usual, loyal, self. Other players would have pouted, thrown a tantrum, or stopped giving 100%. You did none of those things. In fact, you took it as a challenge to improve your game, and you succeeded in that.
But I have to admit something. There were times that I cursed your name. I’m not proud to say it, but at certain moments in your career you were not my favorite player. There were times that fans’ emotions came to a boiling point, and we lost patience with you. I hope you ignored all the negative message board chatter, because people tend to say much nastier things about people behind the guise of internet anonymity. There were times that some “fans” wanted to give up on you. But you never gave up on us, even though you had every right to. It’s rare to see a college aged kid with that much integrity.
Now that you’re about to stand at halfcourt at McKale Center, and hoist that framed jersey above your head, I can’t help but feel like we didn’t really deserve you. You were never anything but a humble, articulate, good natured kid. If every student athlete had your demeanor and personality, the game would be in much better shape. I don’t think there’s ever been a nicer athlete that has received as much criticism as you have. Certainly not in Tucson. But hey, the past is the past, and now it’s time to start thinking about your future.
That’s why I took personal offense to Kevin O’Neill’s comments about you after you helped us beat the tar out of USC earlier this year. For those that don’t know, O’Neill facetiously remarked to the media that he was still waiting for Jamelle’s NBA career to take off after the game. I took offense not because it was a grown man criticizing a kid who he failed as a coach, and not because I don’t think coaches should be making derogatory remarks about anyone. It was because he missed the point entirely. Success for student athletes is not about making it to the pro’s. It’s about gaining world experience and becoming a better person. It’s about making those life long connections and relationships that will shape your future. Even if you don’t play a single minute in the NBA, your career at Arizona has been a success story. I hope you know that the majority of fans feel that way about you.
Oh, and KO, we’re still waiting for your NBA career to take off too. The mark you left on the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies was clearly indelible.
So Jamelle, I’ll cut this short. You stayed with us even when the fans wouldn’t do the same for you. You stayed with us from the darkest time in the program’s history to one of it’s brightest, and you helped us get here. So wherever life takes you and whatever you do, remember that you will always and forever be a Wildcat. Thank you Jamelle, and don’t be a stranger.
AK Murthy has been writing for PGU since 2008 and has unwittingly been covering the Arizona Wildcat beat his entire life. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org