About 40 years ago, Tucson engineer R.E. "Bob'' Lee built a tennis court in his backyard. Here's what happened:
His daughter Debbie Lee McGovern led Sahuaro High School to the 1973 state tennis championship. She won the state doubles title, too. And then she did it again in 1974.
In 1980, his son Mike Lee won the state singles championship at Sabino High School and went on to play at Arizona and on the USTA circuit.
Two years ago, Mike's oldest son, Jackson Lee, won the state doubles championship at Sabino.
Two weeks ago, Mike's middle son, freshman Michael Lee, won the state singles championship for Catalina Foothills.
"My youngest son, Mason, is 12 and he's already pretty serious about tennis," Mike Lee said last week. "My dad didn't play much as a kid, but he wanted us to be active, so he built the court in our backyard. I'd say it has worked out pretty well. We still use it for training."
Jackson and Michael will be teammates next year at Foothills, where they will be expected to compete for state singles, doubles and team championships. The family will probably need to add space to its trophy shelf.
"When I watched Mikey win the state championship it got very intense; it went to a third-set tiebreaker, just like it did for me in 1980," Mike Lee said. "I had dreamed of my boys winning at state, like my sister Debbie and I did.
"Mikey came up to me after and said, 'You can check that one off, dad.' He told me he wants to win all of the titles that I've won. And I think he will. He's probably a little more serious than I was. He's single-minded, a fighter. I was more carefree."
The Lee family is spending this weekend at a USTA event in Phoenix.
Mike Lee rivaled Jim Grabb for Tucson's youth tennis supremacy 25 years ago. The two played the USTA youth circuits together - they were often doubles teammates - and were prep rivals until Grabb left for private instruction in Phoenix and Lee for a similar setting in Palm Springs, Calif.
They played against one another as collegians, Grabb at Stanford, Lee at Arizona. Grabb went on to win the U.S. Open doubles title in 1992. Lee tore up his knee, required surgery, and had difficulty regaining his elite-level status.
Lee is now vice president of his father's firm, R.E. Lee Mechanical Contracting Inc.
"What I'd like is to see Jackson win the state singles title, although Mikey is going to give him a lot of trouble," Mike Lee said. "And then have Mason come along and make a big sweep of it in a few years."
VERDUGo's 18 K's
Scouts will make Sahuaro pitcher's senior year 'a zoo'
Although there is no official record book, or recognized sports historian for Tucson prep baseball, it's likely that Catalina Trojans pitcher Randy Evans holds the city's strikeout record, 163, in the 1975 season.
Even when Sahuaro lefty Alex Verdugo struck out 18 in Tuesday's state playoff game against Nogales, giving him 130 for the year, it didn't put him in Evans territory.
But Verdugo's 18 strikeouts likely becomes the all-time single-game Tucson record. Catalina's Danny Fregoso struck out 17 Desert View hitters in 1991. Evans struck out 17 Amphi batters in 1975. Stats before 1965 are uncertain.
Cholla's Jesus Garcia struck out 21 Winslow batters in 1971, but that game went 11 innings.
It's so hard to break a high school record. Verdugo finished 10-0, but Tucson High's Frank Castro was 12-0 in 1972. Verdugo's career record is 22-6, but Tucson's Tavo Alvarez went 33-4 in 1988-90.
And Verdugo's ERA of 1.29, while dazzling, doesn't match the 0.32 of Rincon's Paul Moskau in 1971, or the 0.56 of Evans in 1975.
Pro scouts will flock to Verdugo's games next spring. "It's going to be a zoo," Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler told me.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be at stake; it will be a moment of truth for Verdugo in matters that go beyond a 92-mph fastball and involve maturity, character and leadership.
Seeing athletes graduate in four years is always nice
Can't think of anything much more impressive than All-Pac-12 basketball players Solomon Hill and Davellyn Whyte earning their degrees in four years. Who does that anymore? … UA senior linebacker Jake Fischer, who sat out the 2011 season with knee problems, also received his degree last week, in four years. Nice. … John Elway was at Arizona Stadium on Friday night for the graduation of his youngest child, Juliana Elway, who earned a degree in education. Elway's last visit to Arizona Stadium was in October 1981, when Stanford reached Arizona's 1-yard line with 90 seconds left, trailing 17-13. That's when UA linebacker Ricky Hunley broke up passes on second, third and fourth downs to preserve the victory and emerge as a future Hall of Famer. … Sabino grad Lucas Reed left Tucson on Thursday to compete in the Denver Broncos' rookie camp. He is one of five tight ends on Denver's roster and the first two, Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme, combined to catch 93 passes last year. If Reed, who was paid a $3,000 signing bonus, can just make Denver's practice squad, it would be a success. … Tucson's next top baseball prospect is likely to be CDO sophomore outfielder Erick Migueles. Dodgers vice president of scouting Logan White saw Migueles while evaluating Seton Catholic pitcher M.J. Villegas last week and had to be impressed. Migueles, who hit .418 with six homers as a sophomore, is a five-tool player, if there is such a thing in high school baseball. His teammate, Nick Ames, who batted .464 as a CDO sophomore infielder, is also on the scouting radar early. Ames' father, Brett Ames, was scouted and drafted by the same Logan White, then with the Orioles in 1991, when Brett played at Tucson High. Timing is everything: Nick Ames hit two homers in the game against Seton Catholic that the Dodgers VP scouted last week.
More Short Stuff
Softball numbers game cost UA Bonstrom
Canyon de Oro grad Kayla Bonstrom is the clear leader to be chosen Pac-12 softball Freshman of the Year and seems likely to make the all-conference first team as well. Through Friday, when she hit a home run to help beat Arizona 2-0, she was No. 3 in the league in hitting (.406) and No. 6 in RBIs (49). Why isn't she a Wildcat? Arizona offered her a scholarship, but not until Stanford, ASU and Washington had done so first. It's not that Mike Candrea didn't understand her ability and potential, but juggling scholarship numbers (each team can distribute the equivalent of 12 per year) is sometimes a waiting game. Each school has to judge how many of those it offers scholarships will get academic scholarship aid, which would then change the numbers game for the rest of those being recruited. Stanford was first to tell Bonstrom she had a full scholarship, no matter what, and she took it. … Sabino baseball coach Rod Allen, a good guy who went 138-65 in seven seasons, is retiring. The 62-year-old Allen was head coach at Palo Verde in the 1980s and was also an assistant at Rincon and Cholla. He was an all-conference infielder at Bowling Green in 1972 and broke into coaching on Jerry Kindall's first UA staff in 1973, as a grad assistant. … First-year Mountain View baseball coach Brian Moore led the Mountain Lions into the playoffs with a 16-13 record this season. Now he watches as his son, Lamar (Colo.) Community College pitcher Austin Moore, leads LCC into the Region IX playoffs. Austin was 7-1 with 83 strikeouts in 71 innings and a 1.64 ERA entering this weekend's playoffs. … Celebrating his 30th year of gymnastics instruction in Tucson, former USA Olympic coach Yoichi Tomita had a good performance at the Junior Nationals in Portland, Ore., last week. His Gymnastics World gymnasts, Nathan Goff, in pommel horse, and Josh Everitt, in rings, both won bronze medals in the event.
Turning to Tucson golf instructor a good move
Tucson golf instructor Susie Meyers was referred to Derek Ernst, last week's winner of the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship, through former UA athletic director Jim Livengood. Ernst, who played at UNLV, needed some direction/instruction, and Livengood contacted his Tucson friend, attorney Burt Kinerk, who has represented pro golfers such as Nathan Tyler, Ricky Barnes and Chris Nallen. Kinerk contacted Meyers six weeks ago. Ernst flew to Tucson to meet and work with Meyers and, presto, he became a PGA Tour winner. Meyers is also working with ex-UA standout Isabelle Boineau, who finished second LPGA Symetra Tour's Guardian Retirement Championship last week after losing on the second hole of a playoff. She is No. 6 on the Symetra money list. And, of course, Meyers has worked with Honda Classic winner Michael Thompson for 13 years. … Joe Scogin, a 1995 Amphi grad, will become the senior associate athletic director at Tennessee this week. After playing baseball at Amphi and then Fort Hayes University, Scogin completed an internship at Missouri where he soon became the school's academic coordinator. Now he's part of the high command at an SEC school. Impressive. … Amphi wrestling coach Sam Portillo last week was named Team Leader and Director of Latin American operations for USA Wrestling's freestyle team. Portillo, a Sunnyside grad, spent last week at the USOC Olympic Training headquarters in Colorado Springs.
My Two Cents
Stoudamire's return to Cats is rife with intriguing possibilities
Damon Stoudamire's expected return to Arizona, as an assistant coach on Sean Miller's staff, has some compelling variables.
First, Arizona has had but one "celebrity'' assistant, Miles Simon, and that went off the tracks. Kevin O'Neill inherited Simon and rarely spoke to him, giving him virtually no responsibilities. Simon, now employed by ESPN, made a brilliant choice to leave coaching and all of the drama.
Second, star players rarely return to college coaching in any capacity. Stoudamire will be just the fifth All-Pac-12 player since 1980 to return to the league as an assistant coach. Brad Holland returned to UCLA; Paul Fortier to Washington and Mark Madsen to Stanford. Elsewhere, Wazzu's Bennie Seltzer became an assistant at Oklahoma and Indiana and is now the head coach at Samford. Arizona's Jason Gardner is an assistant at Loyola of Chicago. UCLA's Tyus Edney returned to the Bruins, but as director of basketball operations, not as a coach.
The three top assistants in modern UA basketball history were different animals. Jerry Holmes, who was Fred Snowden's go-to recruiter and "horse whisperer" behind the scenes, was the rock of that program.
Jim Rosborough was similarly blessed as a communicator and behind-the-scenes good cop to Lute Olson's bad cop. Moreover, Rosborough was an excellent X's and O's coach.
Josh Pastner was from another mold. He was a grinder, a 24/7 recruiter and personnel chief who kept Arizona involved in the messy AAU network.
Who knows what Stoudamire will be? Arizona needs what it lost in James Whitford and Archie Miller: a steadying presence who knows the game from all angles and is willing to grind in the office.
As an extra, Stoudamire will be able to turn a recruit's head the way no previous UA assistant coach ever could.
At this level of college hoops, you don't run on-the-job tryouts on your staff, even for a sainted alumnus like Damon Stoudamire. Arizona can thank Pastner for preparing Stoudamire for the job.