One of the players in the battle for playing time in the backcourt, sophomore guard Jordin Mayes, would be well advised to examine how Terry handled these same circumstances and challenges.
Terry wasn't always thought of as a player who would make over 76 million dollars as a professional basketball player. A member of the high school class of 1995, he didn't rank in most recruiting analysts' top 100 high school seniors in the country.
As a UA freshman during the 1995-96 season, Terry played 9.8 minutes per game and produced some impressive moments, like his 18 point outburst against Oregon late in the season. Despite the promise he showed his freshman year, Terry was generally overlooked as UA fans talked about the Phoenix high school legend, Mike Bibby, who would take over at point guard the following season.
Conventional wisdom played out and Bibby was named the starting point guard for the first game of the 1996-97 season, with Terry projected to be his backup. However, Terry was unexpectedly thrust into starting at shooting guard for the first game of the season when Miles Simon was declared academically ineligible. Terry played well in Simon's absence, scoring 12.8 points and averaging 5.8 assists.
Yet once Simon's suspension ended, Terry returned to the bench, but continued to perform well. He finished the season as the key reserve on a team that won the 1997 National Championship.
Despite Terry's major contributions to the 1997 NCAA Championship Team, his playing time was reduced the next season due to Simon being eligible the entire year.
As a senior, Terry finally got his chance to become the starting point guard when Mike Bibby declared for 1998 NBA Draft. Terry's award-laden season culminated in Sports Illustrated naming him National College Basketball Player of the Year.
Terry's story of hard work, patience and ultimate success should be a model for UA reserve guard Jordin Mayes. Like Terry, Mayes came to Arizona relatively unheralded. Scouting services generally ranked him as a fringe top 100 high school player.
UCLA and USC didn't offer Mayes, a Los Angeles native, a scholarship, despite his leading Westchester High School to back-to-back California state championships. While Mayes played for a prestigious program, his selfless play prevented him from being a more prolific scorer.
"He's a really unselfish player," said Ed Azzam, Mayes' legendary high school coach at Westchester High School. "He played both guard positions for us and didn't put up the scoring numbers in high school he could have, because it's in his nature to be a team player and share the ball."
After arriving at UA, Mayes surpassed many fan expectations by quickly claiming the back up point guard spot during preseason practices. He progressed throughout the season and played his best game of the year in Arizona's second round tournament upset win over Texas. In a game that went down the wire, Mayes was on point throughout, scoring 17 points and connecting on all four of his three-point attempts.
Mayes finished his freshman year second in the Pac-10 in three-point percentage and was named to the Honorable Mention All Pac-10 Freshman Team.
Azzam wasn't surprised by Mayes' first year success.
"Nothing he does amazes me," Azzam said. "He has a cool demeanor, picks things up very quickly and is probably the best shooter I've ever coached."
Mayes struggled much of the season with decision making and turnovers, but seemed to get more comfortable handling the ball as the season came to an end, finishing with nearly a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio over the last 10 games.
As Terry's future became blurry 15 years ago with the arrival of a high profile point guard, Mayes' future becomes equally blurry this summer with the arrival of 5-star point guard Josiah Turner. While nothing will be given to him, it is widely believed Turner will be the starting point guard next year.
Despite being one of many talented players competing for playing time, Mayes benefits from a few factors in his push for individual development. Like Terry with Lute Olson, Mayes has the luxury of playing for a top-tier developer of talent in Sean Miller. And just as Terry benefited from playing against Bibby on a daily basis, Mayes should benefit from playing against the immensely talented Turner on a daily basis.
"Jordin's a hard worker who will do what it takes to get better every day," said Azzam. "He's not scared of competition."
Despite the log jam of talented perimeter players, there is good reason to believe that Mayes will succeed if he continues to work hard and wait his turn.
And while it would be a stretch to project Mayes to attain the same basketball status as Jason Terry, it's not hard to imagine Mayes becoming a top level collegian and a player with a lucrative pro career, if he follows the path of hard work and patience that served Terry so well.