After missing the complete 1986-87 NCAA season due to injury sustained at the 1986 FIBA World Championship, Arizona Wildcats senior Steve Kerr returned to action in 1987-88.
While playing as a starting point guard for Lute Olson’s Arizona Wildcats, Kerr did a great job of reading the defenses and recognizing situations, while also protecting the ball and thus recording numerous games with ZERO turnovers.
For the 1987-88 NCAA campaign, Kerr averaged 12.6ppg, 3.9apg, 2.0rpg, and 1.2spg.
Even more astonishing was Kerr’s 1987-88 brilliant assist-to-turnover ratio – he managed to dish out 150 assists while at the same time he committed just 36 turnovers!
But Kerr’s specialty became the shot beyond the newly established NCAA three-point line.
Since the NCAA established the three-point line for the 1986-87 season, which Kerr spent redshirted, he took the full advantage of the 19’9″ line next season, by hitting 114 triples out of 199 tries for an NCAA all-time record in the category of the three-point field goal efficiency – 57.3%!
Even more impressive is that during the 1987-88 Pac-10 Division action surging, Kerr managed to hit 60 triples out of 92 tries, which accounts for an extraordinary 65.2% accuracy!
Kerr’s shining performance reflected in team success as well – the Arizona Wildcats dominated the Pac-10 action winning as many as 11 out of 18 conference games by 20 or more points of difference while breezing into the nation’s Top 10 in December of 1987.
Some of the most memorable Wildcats triumphs of the 1987-88 NCAA season include the victories over UCLA, Iowa, Oregon State, and Arizona State.
For Kerr personally, some of the most emotional wins were the two over the Pac-10 rival UCLA. His father, Malcolm H. Kerr, used to lecture at UCLA and providing his youngest son with a unique opportunity to serve as the ball boy at UCLA Bruins games.
For Arizona head coach Lute Olson, who made a stunning turnaround in the university’s basketball program, the most emotional 1987-88 wins were undoubtedly the ones over Iowa Hawkeyes, the team he coached prior he took over Arizona Wildcats, back in 1983.
The more significant of those two wins came in the NCAA Tournament on March 25th, 1988, when the Wildcats eliminated Iowa with a convincing 99-79 win in Seattle’s King Dome.
The Hawkeyes opened the game with 8 straight points for an 8-0 lead. The outcome didn’t look too promising for Kerr and the rest of the Wildcats. But, even then, Kerr didn’t lose his composure.
He remained focused, kept the team together, and then led his team to a 4-point lead at the half. The Wildcats dominated throughout the second half and thus advanced to Elite Eight. Kerr finished the game with 17 points, 8 assists, and 4 boards, and committed zero turnovers!
After that, in the 1988 NCAA Regional finals, the Arizona Wildcats eliminated North Carolina led by F/C J.R. Reid by 70-52 (Kerr 14 points, 3 assists), before losing to Oklahoma led by F/C Stacey King by 78-86 (Kerr 6 points, 5 assists) in the National Semifinals.
Kerr, who earned the selection to 1987-88 All-American 2nd Team, was selected as 50th pick of 1988 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns. Four of his Arizona Wildcats teammates would later join him in the NBA – Sean Elliott, Tom Tolbert, Jud Buechler, and Anthony Cook.