By Phil Collin
Fullerton, Calif., November 26, 2018 – The champions hoisted the trophy before their cheering fans inside Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym. Every Seton Hall player wanted to grasp it and they didn’t want to let the moment escape them.
Moments earlier, the Pirates withstood a heart-stopping 3-point attempt that could have denied them the victory. Instead, they now possess a trophy that will stand out among all others back on campus in South Orange, N.J.
With an 83-81 victory over Miami in the championship game of the 2018 Wooden Legacy, Seton Hall also claimed a touch of college basketball history for its very own.
Coach Kevin Willard, soaked by a water shower from his jubilant players, put the accomplishment in perspective.
“Anytime you put a trophy up it’s important, anytime you win a championship,” Willard said. “Obviously, Coach Wooden is the greatest coach of all time and maybe the greatest leader of all time. That’s the reason we signed up to play out here, because it’s the Wooden Legacy.
“I’ve read his books so many times but I always go back and read his books and pick out something new that I didn’t pick up. I wouldn’t have come out to Anaheim if it was called the Kevin Willard Classic. The fact that’s it the Wooden Legacy, that’s what it meant to me and it’s important for our guys to understand who John Wooden was and the importance of not only what he did basketball wise, but he was a phenomenal leader.”
The eight teams now move on to the rest of the regular season as the countdown continues until March. Seton Hall, stung by a home loss to Saint Louis before traveling west, has a renewed sense of confidence going forward led by the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Myles Powell, who averaged 25.3 points per game in the event.
And the countdown begins toward the 2019 Wooden Legacy to be played on Nov. 28-29 and Dec. 1, when five more Eastern teams will join three Western teams in the field.
Providence (Big East), College of Charleston (Colonial Athletic), Penn (Ivy), UCF (American Athletic) and Wake Forest (Atlantic Coast) will join Arizona (Pac-12), Pepperdine (West Coast) and Long Beach State (Big West) in the field. Wake Forest won the 2008 Wooden Legacy.
Long Beach State and Providence will be playing in their third Wooden Legacy, with Arizona, Charleston and Wake Forest making return trips.