Skip to main content

Read more about Salpointe's Hall of Fame class at our sister site

At a quick glance Ash did not have a huge impact. He played in 48 games and averaged just .7 points. He was, however, a member of the Arizona national championship team in 1997. He was also a back-up to Jason Terry and Jason Gardner. The Wildcats were not deep at point guard and would routinely play both Terry and Gardner 35-38 minutes a game. It was not uncommon for Ash to come off the bench to spell Gardner for a minute or two, even in games where you might not expect a walk-on to play.

As good as Ash was in those brief stretches, he was not the most successful walk-on of the modern era. That award goes to Bret Brielmaier. Although Brielmaier never put up huge numbers, he averaged 1.7 points and 1.9 rebounds, he did become a rotational player. The rugged power forward from Minnesota played in 92 games, starting 11, including nine in his senior year when the Wildcats dealt with injury issues to the frontline.

Brielmaier was known as a heady player and became an undergraduate assistant for the Wildcats. Today he is an assistant coach in the NBA.

If Brielmaier is not the best walk-on, then it has to be Jason Ranne. Ranne only played 47 games in four years, but played in 22 games his senior season. Like Ash and Brielmaier, he was a rare walk-on who would see playing time in the first half of close games when the situation warranted.

Although he did not make a big impact at Arizona, guard Jason Richey was the most talented of the walk-ons during the Lute Olson era. The Nebraska native played in 15 games of mop-up duty as a freshman at Arizona then transferred to a community college before eventually landing at San Diego State. He spent two years with the Aztecs, averaging over 17 points a game in the old WAC.

A lot of Wildcat fans had high hopes for Beau Muhlbach (no relation to Matt) when he dropped 36 points in a public scrimmage, but that performance did not translate into playing time. He played in just eight games at Arizona and left for Texas A&M to be closer to his family. The move proved to be a good one as he played in 18 games as a junior and 29 games as a senior.

Arizona has had some other memorable walk-ons. The most famous walk-on is the program’s history was Josh Pastner. Pastner came to Arizona to learn to be a coach, and was known for his willingness to work with his teammates. Pastner may be best known for the Wildcats’ 42-0 record in games he appeared in. He later became an assistant coach under Lute Olson and is now the head coach at Georgia Tech.

Scroll to Continue

Matt Brase used to be best known at Lute Olson’s grandson but is now known as one of the rising assistant coaches in the NBA. He won a championship with the D-League’s Rio Grande Vipers, and is currently an assistant with the Houston Rockets.

David Bagga was a fan favorite, especially the Zona Zoo, and became a master of self promotion after his Wildcat career. He made the most of his time at Arizona, including penning two books, and briefly served as a radio play-by-play announcer for the Long Beach State women’s team. He left the basketball world behind and today is a very successful medical sales recruiter.

Cliff Johns had two distinctions. He was the first walk-on under Olson to finish a season, and was the first player of Native American decent to play for the program and was the only Native American player at a Division I program during his time at Arizona.

Jason Lee transferred from Allegheny College to be the lone senior on the Wildcats’ 97 title team. A fringe rotational player, he appeared in 19 games averaging 3.3 points a game. He had two double figure scoring games in December of 1996, blowout wins over Robert Morris and Penn, and had a total of 17 points in the Pac-10 opening weekend against Cal and Stanford, games that the Wildcats won by a total of two points.

Anas Fellah is known for one game where he helped bail Arizona out of an upset bid by Oregon State in the late 90’s.

Fil Torres is best known for his mistake. With the Wildcats milking the clock in a blowout win over NAU, Torres was supposed to let the clock run out but heeded the fans call to shoot the ball. Torres buried the three pointer, drawing the ire of Olson who did not play Torres for several weeks. The shot, coincidentally, helped Arizona to cover the spread.

The Wildcats have also turned to the football team to bolster their depth. Craig Bergman, Ortege Jenkins, Peter Hansen and Ryan O’Hara were among the football players to join the hoops squad to help the team out.

The Sean Miller era has not had as much success with walk-ons. Jacob Hazzard was probably the best of the bunch, playing in 43 games and averaging 2.6 points a game his senior season. His biggest impact may be in his family ties. His brother Max is a graduate transfer from Cal Irvine who is expected to play a big role this season.

Jake DesJardins was put on scholarship last season, and appeared in eight games, including a few stretches where he played some key minutes due to foul trouble. He will return to walk-on status this season.