The 2017 Wooden Legacy will feature a former champion and four other schools with previous experience in the 12-game bracketed in-season tournament as the annual Thanksgiving weekend event will be played next season on November 23, 24, and 26.
San Diego State, the 2013 Wooden Legacy champion from the Mountain West Conference, returns to participate in the eight-school event named for the legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. The Aztecs defeated College of Charleston, Creighton and Marquette enroute to winning the Wooden Legacy crown in their first appearance in the tournament.
Led by nationally-ranked Saint Mary’s (West Coast Conference), other schools with past Wooden Legacy participations in the 2017 event are Cal State Fullerton (Big West Conference), DePaul (Big East Conference) and Washington State (Pac-12 Conference). Saint Mary’s is listed 15th in the November 21 Associated Press poll for its best ranking nationally since 1959.
Cal State Fullerton (2008 and 2013) and Saint Mary’s (2008 and 2012) will be making their third appearances each in the event. DePaul (2010), Washington State (2011) and San Diego State (2013) return for the second-time.
Newcomers to the Wooden Legacy field are Georgia (Southeastern Conference), Harvard (Ivy League) and Saint Joseph’s (Atlantic 10 Conference). The Bulldogs will be the third SEC team to compete in the Wooden Legacy while Harvard is the second Ivy League school in the Thanksgiving weekend event. Saint Joseph’s is the sixth A10 team in the competition as Saint Louis won the 2011 Wooden Legacy title.
In additions to San Diego State and Saint Louis, other Wooden Legacy champions were USC (2007), Wake Forest (2008), West Virginia (2009), UNLV (2010), Cal (2012), Washington (2014) and Michigan State (2015). Schools competing in this week’s 2016 Wooden Legacy are CSUN, Dayton, Nebraska, New Mexico, Portland, Texas A&M, UCLA and Virginia Tech.
The Wooden Legacy was formed in June 2013 as two vibrant, nationally-recognized in-season collegiate basketball events joined forces as the John R. Wooden Classic was merged with the Anaheim Classic that had been played the previous six years (2007-2012) at the Anaheim Convention Center. The Wooden Classic was staged 19 years (1994-2012) at Honda Center with the first 17 events being college doubleheaders.
DePaul, Georgia, Saint Mary’s and San Diego State competed in the John R. Wooden Classic with the Aztecs defeating UCLA in the final game played in the event in 2012. Saint Mary’s won all three of its Wooden Classic games with two of the victories over San Diego State (2007 and 2008). The Gaels defeated Long Beach State in 2010 while Georgia played two thrilling games in their previous Wooden Classic appearances, losing to Stanford, 76-74, in 1997 and defeating Cal, 78-73 in overtime, in 2002.
Cal State Fullerton – When the school makes their third appearance in the Wooden Legacy, the Titan will be led by underclassmen forward Jackson Rowe and guard Kyle Allman. Rowe has started his freshman campaign this season by averaging 13.3 points and 5.5 rebounds game while shooting 76 percent from the field. After averaging 5.1 points per game as a freshman in 2015-2016, Allman has started his sophomore season by scoring 12.0 points a game with a 3.5 assist average.
DePaul – The Blue Demons return to Anaheim and will be led by sophomore guard Eli Cain. Cain opened his sophomore season with three straight 20-point games after earning BIG EAST All-Freshman Team honors in 2015-2016. Joining Cain will be a pair of sharpshooting transfers sitting out the 2016-2017 season in Austin Grandstaff and Max Strus. Grandstaff was a consensus top 50-recruit coming out of high school before playing his freshman season at Ohio State. Strus played his first two seasons at Lewis University (Ill.) where he earned Division II All-American honors.
Georgia – When the Bulldogs return to a “Wooden” event for the first time since 2002, Yante Maten will lead the way. After contributing coming off the bench as a freshman for Georgia’s 2015 NCAA Tournament team, Maten emerged as one of the nation’s premier power forwards during the 2015-2016 campaign. Last season, he was the only player in the SEC ranked among the league’s top-10 leaders in scoring (No. 9 at 16.5 points per game), rebounding (No. 6 at 8.0), field goal percentage (No. 5 at .496) and free throw percentage (No. 10 at .783). Maten, the lone returning player in a Power 5 conference in 2016-2017 who averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds a game during 2015-2016, was the only SEC player named to the watch list for the 2017 Karl Malone Award.
Harvard – The Crimson will be led by sophomore Bryce Aiken, who paces a class that contributes 48.5 points per game thus far this season. Junior Chris Egi also returns as a key cog, averaging 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 15 minutes this season.
Saint Joseph’s – The 2016 Atlantic 10 champions, the Hawks will feature the backcourt duo of senior Shavar Newkirk and junior Lamarr Kimble when it makes its first appearance in the Wooden Legacy in 2017-2018. Through the early part of 2016-2017, Newkirk and Kimble have combined to score more than 50 percent of the Hawks’ points. Newkirk looks to be on track for a career-best season, averaging 21.8 points per game.
Saint Mary’s – When Saint Mary’s competes in the 2017 Wooden Legacy, the Gaels will return all but two graduating seniors, Joe Rahon and Dane Pineau. SMC will be led by current junior guard Emmett Naar who is averaging 11.3 points and 7.8 assists per game so far in 2016. Coach Randy Bennett will also have starting center Jock Landale who is off to a hot start, as the 6-11 Australian is averaging 21.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Among the most efficient offenses in the country, the Gaels currently rank 2nd in the NCAA in Assist-Turnover ratio (2.39) and 11th in field-goal percentage (53.0%). The No. 15 ranking is the highest the Gaels have been ranked by the AP since 1959.
San Diego State – The Aztecs will be led by its starting backcourt in Trey Kell and Jeremy Hemsley. Kell, who will be senior in 2017-2018, is starting for the third straight season and is averaging 18.7 points through three games. Hemsley, meanwhile, will be in his junior campaign and he currently leads the Aztecs in scoring at 20.7 points per outing.
Washington State – So far this season, freshman Malachi has started every game of his Cougar career at point guard, and looks to continue to lead WSU as a sophomore when the team heads to the 2017 Wooden Legacy. The 6-1 point guard is currently averaging 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He will be joined by current sophomores, Viont’e Daniels and Robert Franks, who look to step up next season with the departure of four seniors, including forward Josh Hawkinson and guard Ike Iroegbu.