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Arizona Produces Final Four Talent

Cameron Satterwhite, Photo Credit: Steve Woltmann Photography

All eyes will be on San Antonio this weekend for the Final 4. Although no teams from Arizona will be there, the state will still be well represented. Mitch Lightfoot and James Sosinski of the Kansas Jayhawks, and Cameron Satterwhite of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, have survived and advanced with their teams to college basketball’s biggest stage.

Satterwhite, a sophomore for Loyola-Chicago, played in high school at Gilbert Christian. The 6’4″ 175 pound guard is now a part of this year’s Cinderella team that has captivated the country. “It feels amazing. Having grown up watching March Madness, to be in this position, is just crazy. These last few weeks have been straight madness. Every game is so intense, and every possession counts, but it has just been great.”

Loyola-Chicago, the #11 seed in the South Region, won their first 3 games by a total of 4 points, and then beat Kansas State 78-62 to advance to the Final 4. “To win a national championship would be a dream come true. It’s every college basketball player’s dream to win a national championship, and for us to get one would just be a blessing.” Satterwhite said.

Cameron Satterwhite, Photo Credit: Steve Woltmann Photography

As a high school junior in 2015, Satterwhite teamed up with Lightfoot to lead Gilbert Christian to a state title. Three years later, both players are now looking for a college national championship. “That is amazing. Mitch and I go way back, and seeing him in the Final Four just makes me happy that we are getting a chance to experience this together.” Satterwhite said. On Saturday, if Loyola-Chicago beats Michigan and Kansas defeats Villanova, the former high school teammates would face each other for the title on Monday. “It would be crazy if it winds up that way, but I know it will be very competitive between us.” Satterwhite said.

Lightfoot, a 6’8″ 210 pound sophomore forward has been a key contributor for Kansas this season. “Mitch is a really good athlete, and he’s a quick-twitch athlete. His attitude is a 10. And he works his tail off. But the thing about it is that Mitch is the type of guy that all good teams have that give them a chance to win, because he hasn’t played his natural position one possession this year. He’s not a five man. He’s a prototypical four man. That’s what we recruited him as. So he’s handled everything great, considering that he hasn’t probably been utilized in a manner that would benefit him the most.” Kansas head coach Bill Self said.

After teaming with Satterwhite at Gilbert Christian for a state title his junior year, Lightfoot was named the 2016 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year his senior season. Now Lightfoot, who is averaging 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, is on the door step of another championship with the Jayhawks, a #1 seed and winners of the Midwest Region.

Lightfoot is sharing this run through March Madness with redshirt sophomore James Sosinski. The 6’7″ 250 pound forward played football and basketball at Chandler’s Hamilton High School. Sosinski, an all-state quarterback his senior season, led the Huskies to the state championship game in 2014. Following high school, Sosinski originally signed to play football at Massachusetts, but did not compete due to injury. He then moved back to Arizona and played basketball at South Mountain Community College. Sosinski finally made his way to Kansas this year, where he plays tight end for the football team. Following the football season, he was invited to walk-on to the Jayhawks basketball team.

Satterwhite, Lightfoot, and Sosinski follow a long line of former players in recent years to take part in the Final 4 with Arizona ties.

Sean Elliott, a former state player of the year at Tucson’s Cholla High School, played in the 1988 Final 4 with Arizona his junior season. Elliott scored a game high 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but the Wildcats lost to Oklahoma 86-78 in the national semifinals.

Bobby Hurley

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley played in the Final Four his first 3 seasons at Duke, winning back to back national championships in 1991 and 1992. In ’91 the Blue Devils beat Kansas 72-65 in the title game and in ’92 beat Michigan 71-51 in the finals. Hurley was named the Final 4’s most outstanding player in ’92 after averaging 17.5 points and 5.5 assists in the two games. “I have always loved the Final 4 and the NCAA Tournament, and I grew up on it. It was a dream for me to play in the Final 4, and then to go there and perform well. I’m just really proud that we did it. I think we’ll go down as one of the great teams in the history of college basketball.”

Mike Bibby

In 1997, one year after leading Shadow Mountain High School to a state title, and being named Arizona’s player of the year, Mike Bibby helped lead U of A to its only basketball national championship. Bibby, who was named to the all- tournament team, scored 19 points and had 9 rebounds in the Wildcats 84-79 overtime victory over Kentucky in the title game. “The national championship game going out there, I remember we felt like we belonged. There’s probably not that many people that felt like we did, but we got hot at the right time.” Bibby said.

Richard Jefferson led Moon Valley High School to a state championship and was Arizona’s prep player of the year in 1998. In 2001, Jefferson scored 19 points and pulled down 8 rebounds in the national championship game with Arizona, where the Wildcats fell to Duke 82-72. Although U of A lost in the title game, Jefferson still has fond memories of being on the big stage. “It was a great experience. My three best experiences are one going to the Final 4, two the opening ceremonies at the Olympics, and then winning a (NBA) championship. That Final 4 was a very pivotal point in my basketball career.” Jefferson said.

Devin Booker (2nd from left), Photo Credit: Chet White | UK Athletics

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker was a freshman on Kentucky’s 2015 team that was the first undefeated team (38-0) to reach the Final 4 since UNLV in 1991. Wisconsin handed Kentucky its lone loss of the season in the national semifinals 71-64. “The pressure of being undefeated heading into the Final 4 was out of this world. We were in that spotlight and it just felt like you were living in a dream. It ended shortly, but it ended up being one of the best runs of our life.” Booker said.

Casey Benson, Photo Credit: Eric Evans Photography

Casey Benson won 3 straight state titles at Corona Del Sol High School and was named Arizona’s Gatorade Player of the Year after his senior season. In 2017, Benson played in the Final 4 with Oregon in his home state at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The Ducks fell to North Carolina 77-76 in the semis. “It was special to be able to come back home. It is what you dream about from the time you started playing basketball. Being able to play in the Final 4, let alone in your home state, right next to where I played in the (high school) state championships.” Benson said. Benson finished up his collegiate career this season as a graduate transfer at Grand Canyon University.

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