TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona Wildcats fans watched Bennedict Mathurin and Dalen Terry dominate on the court this season.
On Sunday, dozens of them got to take home a piece of a magical season.
Mathurin and Terry signed autographs and posed for pictures at Showtime Cards on Speedway Boulevard.
“I’m from Phoenix, so it means I feel like my branches are being expanded even more coming to Tucson,” Terry told KGUN. “I feel like they’ve welcomed me with open arms, so this is my way of giving back.”
Showtime owner George Mares says the event came together quickly last week, with both players agreeing to the appearance before the Wildcats’ Sweet 16 game against Houston, regardless of how the team finished in San Antonio.
“For us, it’s exposure, we’re selling other things, photos, basketballs, [customers] coming in here to buy cards,” Mares said.
Mathurin and Terry got to take home the ticket sales, which went for $50 per item to be signed by both players.
Last summer, the NCAA finally started allowing college student-athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness (NIL).
That rule changed opened the door for autograph sessions like this to start happening more often in Tucson.
“A couple years ago, if I would take em out for a sandwich, it would be like major trouble,” Mares said. “So now the fact that they’re gonna get paid, it’s great. And they deserve it.”
“We’re athletes and you know just to have a little pocket money on the side help us and can help the family,” Mathurin said. “So it’s pretty great.”
Terry, who has other NIL deals, says it’s “something he’s dreamed of.”
“A way for me to practice what I’m eventually gonna have to do at the next level,” he said. “So I mean, it’s a great opportunity and I’m glad that it’s happening this year.”
Sunday was also a chance for younger Arizona fans to meet their heroes.
“I was so excited because I heard about it right after the U of A lost,” eight-year-old fan Nathan Almader said. “So it kind of made my day.”
“Basketball is about generation,” Mathurin said. “You know, it’s about influencing the generation after us. So it’s all about motivating the kids to do what we do and hopefully it’s them in the future.”
And in the future—Tucson will remember this as a special season. So will the players.
“This year was legendary,” Mathurin said. “We’ve had a lot of great talents. So many good players and good coaches.”
“Thank you Tucson for being here to support,” Terry said. “We just tried to do whatever we could to give y’all what we can.”
Almader also reflected on watching this season as a fan.
“We made it really far,” Almader said. “The refs cheated us. But we almost won. But at least we put up an effort.”
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