After playing 12 years in the NBA, Sean Rooks is a rookie again.
Rooks, the 43-year-old former Arizona Wildcat center, is serving as a player development coach for the Phoenix Suns after serving as an assistant coach in the NBA Development League.
Rooks has made D-League stops in Bakersfield, New Mexico and Sioux Falls as an assistant coach. But when Sioux Falls hired 29-year-old Joel Abelson over Rooks for its head coaching job this season, Rooks accepted an invitation from Suns player development director Lindsey Hunter.
It's the bottom floor for an NBA coach but Rooks is willing to jump on it.
"It's a temporary situation but I'll try to make the best of it," Rooks said. "You've got to start somewhere."
Rooks is something of a utilityman for the Suns, working on whatever players or coaches need, whenever they need it. He said he's also sometimes a "baby sitter" for the younger players, helping them off the court, too.
"I've always wanted to evolve," Rooks said. "That's what's kept me around."
Rooks said his ultimate goal is to be a head coach and that he's interested in being at the college level because of the chance to make a difference.
Coincidentally, Rooks has a 6-foot-11 son, Kameron, who is scheduled to play college ball next season - maybe even at Arizona. Kameron Rooks had fall offers from ASU, Washington and Drake, while Sean Rooks said UA offered him a scholarship for the spring signing period.
Kameron visited Washington earlier this month and is expected to visit the Wildcats next month. Sean Rooks said his 270-pound son is a "late bloomer," and that UA watched him carefully before offering him a scholarship earlier this month.
"Arizona was interested but they were very honest with him," Rooks said. "They said, 'We'll check you out and see if you show you can change your body.' Then they came back again and said 'Wow.'"
Sean Rooks said his son's mother and travel-ball coach are also major factors in his decision but the elder Rooks, not surprisingly, said Arizona would be a good choice if his son can stay patient.
"When I came in, I had four bigs in front of me," said Rooks, who redshirted as a freshman during UA's 1987-88 Final Four season. "But not once did I worry about the talent there or playing time. I never felt left out."
In some ways, the same goes today for him. There's another ladder to climb.
The award for UA's top ticket salesman early this season just might go to … UA coach Sean Miller.
As he did for the UA's Red-Blue scrimmage, Miller has been asking fans via Twitter to show up, and thanking them for doing so, especially the Zona Zoo student fans.
"It's certainly a way to connect with our students," Miller said. "I feel like our student body has really embraced the team and the season. As you (media) guys know, that student section is the heartbeat of every arena, ours being no different. When you have that many students at the game it makes an incredible atmosphere and a great homecourt advantage."
It may be working. Mario Ziccarelli, associate executive director of the Zona Zoo, said students filled the 2,200-seat student section for UA's first two games and nearly did so for Monday's game against Long Beach State.
"It's definitely an incentive if the coach wants you, and we've tried to get that word out also," Ziccarelli said.
It also helps, Ziccarelli said, that Miller has hosted courtside talks with student fans, and offering them free pizza. Miller met with the Zona Zoo on Nov. 8 and is expected to again before Pac-12 play starts.
UA's overall attendance for its first three games has improved, too. Arizona is averaging 13,820 tickets distributed this season while it averaged 12,997 for the first three home games (against comparable competition) last season.
Recruits rated highly
Even though Arizona finished with only two players in the fall signing period, which ended Wednesday, the Wildcats' class of forward Rondae Jefferson and Elliott Pitts was ranked No. 17 by Scout and No. 18 by ESPN and Rivals.
UCLA, which pulled in Top 100 guards Zach Levine and Allerik Freeman, also pulled in a small but well-regarded class that was rated 16th by Scout, 22nd by ESPN and 19th by Rivals. California's three-man class, which includes five-star guard Jabari Bird, was rated 21st by Rivals and 18th by Scout.
"It's relative because if there's not need, you're not going to have great recruiting classes," ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi said. "When Arizona and UCLA recruit well, then the Pac-12 has a good rep. I think Stanford has been very consistent in recruiting, Cal is coming around and Oregon is definitely making progress. And the one guy you can never count out in the recruiting process is Lorenzo (Romar of Washington). He's very good."
Incidentally, Washington and Arizona, along with Kentucky, are the three finalists vying to get a spring signing from the highest rated 2013 player in the West: Forward Aaron Gordon of San Jose, Calif.
• Who: NAU (1-2) at Arizona (3-0)
• When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
• TV: Pac-12 Network
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)