Anaheim, Calif., November 27, 2019 – It’s always been a tough task to slip something past Danny Manning, but he was admittedly caught off-guard Wednesday.
Just after Wake Forest’s shoot-around for the paycom Wooden Legacy, manning was told he is the first winner of the John R. Wooden Award to coach in the tournament named after the UCLA coaching legend.
“I didn’t know that. That’s pretty cool,” Manning said. “I was fortunate to win that award and to be a part of this event with such a historic figurehead, that’s pretty cool.”
In his sixth season with the Demon Deacons (3-2), his team will open play in the eight-team tournament on Thursday against College of Charleston (3-2).
In the other tournament openers, Providence (4-2) will take on Long Beach State (2-4), UCF (3-1) meets Penn (3-2) and Pepperdine (3-3) challenges No. 14 Arizona (6-0).
“It’s great competition and for us our first game is Charleston, so we know what they’re doing, and we’re prepared, then it gets tough after that because you don’t know who your matchups are,” Manning said. “The rest of your scouting reports will be in the hotel walking through. That’s different for the new guys but the returning guys have a grasp of it.”
Charleston, coming off a one-point road loss to UCF, is led by guard Grant Riller, who leads his team in scoring (21.4) and assists (5.0).
“We’ve played good basketball, but it hasn’t been for long enough,” Cougars coach Earl Grant said. “The losses we’ve had, 30 minutes of good basketball isn’t enough.”
This is the third Wooden Legacy appearance for Providence. The Friars reached the championship game in 2015 before falling to Michigan State.
“This is one of the best tournaments in the country and we’re very appreciative to be here and play in the Wooden Legacy,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “We’ve been getting off to a lot of slow starts, getting behind. So, let’s see if we can come out early and sustain it.”
This is the first time this season that Arizona has played away from the McKale Center in Tucson.
“In our case we’ve had an opportunity to play six in a row at home, but it is different it allows you as a coach and a team to grow,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. “Not only are we playing one game away from McKale, but we’re going to get three games in four days. It will be a challenge for our freshmen for sure but every team’s kind of facing the same thing.”
Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar is no stranger to this event. He guided Washington to the tournament title in 2014.
“This helps us prepare for the end of the year in the conference tournament, that’s for sure,” Romar said. “Also, in a short period of time you learn a whole lot about yourself.”
Coach Johnny Dawkins guided UCF to the 2018 Myrtle Beach Invitational title, but the Knights are having to do it without three departed stars – B.J. Taylor, Tacko Fall and Aubrey Dawkins.
“I’m encouraged by my guys’ resilience,” Dawkins said. “We’ve been in a lot of really good games; we’ve had a challenging schedule and our guys have responded. We have nine new players so there’s a lot of teaching going on right now.”
Penn has won consecutive games by a total of three points. The Quakers are led by senior forward AJ Brodeur, who is averaging 18 points and 10.2 rebounds. Brodeur needs only two points to move into the top 10 on the school’s all-time scoring list.
“We’re still evolving,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “Of all the teams I’ve had here at Penn this is the biggest upside team with so many good young players. You see a little bit of a roller coaster because of that as well. We have three good leaders and some freshmen I think can help us in the league that can help us get to the NCAA tournament.”