“Catching up with Past Cats” is a new feature I will be doing in which, you guessed it, checking in with Arizona Wildcats of the past and seeing where life has taken them, getting their opinions on today’s game and reflecting on some of their favorite memories in Tucson. I hope you enjoy and please feel free to comment below and share these one-of-a-kind interviews with your friends.
Today I caught up with David Bagga. Some may remember Bagga as a walk-on for the University of Arizona men’s basketball team from 2005-2009. I remember him as one of the most passionate, hard-working and likeable guys to ever put on an Arizona jersey. As a student in the Zona Zoo section during his era, I remember getting more fired up by him than almost any other starter or player on the team. His energy and passion captured the fans and lit up the student section. I want to thank David for his time! It was a pleasure catching up with him and I wish him nothing but the best for his future.
What are you doing these days?
Currently I’m broadcasting for Long Beach State University; I’m the women’s basketball play-by-play announcer. My main goal is to become a college basketball analyst for a network like the PAC12 network or CBS one day. I also have my sales job in Orange County and I’m working on a children’s book. Hopefully it will be ready by September of 2012.
The Wildcats just missed out on a trip to the NCAA tournament. Why do you think they struggled this year? Would you call the season a disappointment?
It’s unfortunate they missed out on the NCAA tournament, there’s no experience like playing in the tournament because anything can happen. I truly believe there were two reasons. The first is that freshman point guard Josaiah Turner did not meet expectations on/off the court. I believe there are some internal issues relating to him that we don’t know about and I think they’ll get addressed after the final four is over or maybe before.
The second issue is that the Wildcats lacked a true post presence, Jesse Perry is about 6 ‘7 and they needed someone to fill the void in the middle. Perry battled every game but at the end of the day he was just undersized. And freshmen forward Angelo Chol (6 ‘9) didn’t come on strong until early February after Kevin Parrom went down along with Jordin Mayes. You have to wonder what it would’ve been like had Mayes been starting all year long and if Parrom didn’t get hurt.
I wouldn’t call the season a disappointment, they still won 23 games and made a post-season tournament, not to mention they went to the finals of the PAC12 conference tournament and came within 2 points of going to the NCAA tournament. They should be a force next year with the freshmen class that Coach Miller has in place coming in and with Solomon Hill coming back they’ll have great leadership.
A year ago at this time, the Cats were playing in the Elite 8 with Derrick Williams leading the way. Where would you rank Williams in Arizona‘s elite players?
Williams ranks up there in terms of Arizona greats. He had as about an impressive 2 year run that I’ve ever seen from a college basketball player, and the crazy part was that he was under the radar for about 24 games before the nation really took notice of who he was and what he was doing on a nightly basis. Had he gotten the same attention as Jimmer Freddette (BYU) or Kemba Walker (UCONN) then he would’ve most likely won some of those post-season awards, but at the end of the day, he’s a guy that worked extremely hard, paid his dues, and bought into the system that Sean Miller implemented and that’s why he’s successful.
Sean Miller had big shoes to fill when taking the program over after the Lute Olson transition. Arizona is averaging 23 wins per season under Miller and he has the No. 1 recruiting class coming in, but is only 1 for 3 on NCAA tournament appearance. How would you assess Miller’s job so far? Any striking similarities or differences to Lute Olson?
So far Coach Miller has done a fantastic job at Arizona. People, specifically fans and students have to remember he inherited several kids that were still from Coach Olson’s recruiting and for what he’s been given, he’s done a great job. This upcoming 2012-13 season will be the first time that Miller has all his recruits in place and will be able to run his system without any questions asked about the coaching turmoil.
With that being said, the one similarity that I see is that both Miller and Olson are extremely competitive, not just to win games but in practices as well; and that goes a long way, it trickles down all the way to the walk-ons when you have a head coach that wants to win at everything. It’s why Olson is one of the best all time and it’s why Miller has the program heading in the right direction. Olson had a way about evaluating talent; he saw something in players like Jordan Hill and Channing Frye that nobody else saw which is what made him a great coach. Miller/Olson possess a mystique about them when it comes to dealing with the media, fans, boosters, and students, and that’s something you can’t teach to most head coaches.
What was your greatest memory from your time as an Arizona Wildcat?
I have two –
1) My senior day 3 point shot against Stanford, 2009– I was supposed to start against Stanford but our Coach, Russ Pennell said that we had to have the regular starting 5 because we needed the win for our tournament chances. The night before the game we were staying in the hotel on campus and my roommate Zane Johnson (now at Hawaii) kept telling me that if I get in I’m going to hit a 3 pointer and go out better than Rudy. I kept laughing because I thought he was trying to be nice and supportive and be a good friend. My parents had also flown in from out of town thinking I was starting but I told them the situation and my dad told me that if I play just go out there and make the most of your last home game. When I hit that 3 point shot against Stanford, I felt like it was 4 long years of hard work paying off. Nobody expected it and I wanted to give a salute to the Zona Zoo because if it weren’t for them I would’ve never gotten in games in the first place. The crazy part is that to this day, even in Orange County/LA fans will come up to me and say that it was one of the top 2 moments in Mckale Center History. It makes me feel good knowing that I could have that type of impact on fans, students, and my teammates even 3 years later because I wasn’t supposed to be at Arizona but Coach Olson saw something in me that nobody else saw. (Author’s note: Watching this still gives me goosebumps. Such an amazing, well-deserved ending for david. CLICK HERE to watch)
2) Sweet 16 appearance in 2009 – We were a 12 seed and we were one of the last 4 teams in, we beat Utah and Cleveland State to get to the sweet16 and we weren’t even supposed to be there. To me, it felt like that was our reward for not giving up on what everyone called a “lost season” because Coach Olson was forced to retire due to health issues and players transferred (Jeff Withey) and got suspended (Garland Judkins). We came together as a group and the season turned out to be a success. Coach Pennell told us after that loss to Louisville that we’d remember this for the rest of our lives because when you’re not supposed to be successful and you wind up succeeding. You never forget that.
Do you still keep in touch with any former players or coaches?
Yes. I talk to Chase Budinger and Alex Jacobson about twice a week to check in and see how they’re doing. I’ve been friends with Chase since 2005 and with Alex since 2004. They’re two of the greatest guys I know. I call Coach Olson as much as I can to say hey and see how he’s doing. And I always email Jim Rosbourough and Josh Pastner to say hey as well along with Matt Brase and Coach Pennell. You never forget the people that help make you a better person.
You wrote a book about your time as an Arizona Wildcat. Tell me more about that. Where can fans get a copy?
Well, my book, THE WALK-ON, is about my experience as a walk-on at Arizona. I wrote it because I wanted people to know that if you embrace an opportunity in life the opportunity will embrace you back and you’ll see results. It shares my story about how I got to Arizona and how I survived when students, teammates, and even coaches said I shouldn’t be there. If fans go to my website, www.davidbagga.com and click on the book link it will take them to the appropriate place to buy it, as always, thank you to the fans for all the support!
You can follow David Bagga on Twitter @davidbagga! Thanks for reading!