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20070815 08-16-2007 Classic Edgerson
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 08/15/2007
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Gene Edgerson couldn't believe it.

Here he was, 19, a year removed from St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, playing for the Arizona Wildcats against the favored Kentucky Wildcats for the NCAA basketball championship.

The scene was the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, on March 31, 1997. Arizona, a No. 4 seed, had beaten two No. 1 seeds to advance to the championship game.

And the UA beat the third No. 1 seed, 84-79, to win the title.

"What I remember most is how pleasantly shocked I was," Edgerson said via email from Angola, Africa, where he has been performing as a member of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters.

"To win the national championship in my first year in college was just unbelievable," Edgerson said. "Never in a million years could I have imagined winning the NCAA championship as a freshman."

Now 29, Edgerson is in his fifth season with the Globetrotters.

He is planning to attend the special dinner honoring that 1997 UA National Championship team, on Saturday, Aug. 18, in the Grand Ballroom at the Westin La Paloma, 3800 East Sunrise Drive.

Tickets are available at $175 per person or $2,000 for a table for 10, by calling 621-7491.

"The most important thing that night we won the national championship was that I got a chance to share one shining moment with a bunch of guys who really appreciated what had just happened," Edgerson said.

"Each individual's hard work and will to win created that victory for us.

"Afterward, we partied like rock stars and continued to do so for at least the next two weeks."

Edgerson said other than the Kentucky contest, the

65-57 first-round win against South Alabama "was our toughest game."

"South Alabama," he said, "played a style of basketball that we were not accustomed to playing. They slowed the game down totally.

"They would walk the ball up the court, pass the ball around so that every player touched it and would not take a shot until there was one or two seconds left.

Not only did they bore you or frustrate you with their style of play, they also forced you to play defense.

"Consequently, you knew the game would be a low scoring game, which wasn't in our favor. They were the only team I felt that forced us to play their way. Thankfully, we shot the ball well because there weren't many opportunities in that game."

The two most unforgettable images from that game are Miles Simon, cradling the ball as the final seconds ticked away and then falling to the floor in joy, and forward Bennett Davison rushing over to Coach Lute Olson and messing up his famous silvery hair.

"I don't think Coach 'O' will allow Bennett to mess up his hair again,"

Edgerson said. "I just wish I had been the one who beat Bennett to the punch that night.

Crazy people do crazy things. If I could go back in time, I would have dumped Gatorade on Coach O."

Edgerson said it's "always good to hang out with my old teammates." No doubt he's looking forward to the reunion.

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