With a field that includes a former champion and four other schools with previous experience in the 12-game bracketed in-season tournament during the Thanksgiving weekend, the 2017 Wooden Legacy participants have combined for a 114-94 record to date during the 2016-2017 season with Saint Mary’s ranked among the nation’s top 25.
With nearly 80 percent of their point producers expected to return for the 2017-2018 season, the Gaels currently rank 20th in the Associated Press poll and 18th in the coaches list (Week No. 16, February 20) with a 24-3 record. Two of the losses have been to West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga, the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
The 2017 Wooden Legacy will be played at two sites in southern California November 23, 24, and 26. Cal State Fullerton (Big West Conference, 13-12 overall record), which will host the first two days of the 2017 Wooden Legacy on its campus at Titan Gym November 23 and 24, will be one of the five schools in the field with previous experience in the event. The placement games will be played November 26 at Honda Center in Anaheim.
San Diego State (Mountain West Conference, 16-10), the 2013 Wooden Legacy champions, 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 2013 Wooden Legacy crown in their first appearance in the tournament.
Other schools with past Wooden Legacy participations in the 2017 event are DePaul (Big East Conference, 8-19) and Washington State (Pac-12 Conference, 12-15). 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) and Washington State (2011) return for the second-time as is San Diego State.
Newcomers to the Wooden Legacy field are Georgia (Southeastern Conference, 15-12), Harvard (Ivy League, 16-7) and Saint Joseph’s (Atlantic 10 Conference, 10-16). The Bulldogs will be the third SEC school to compete in the Wooden League while Harvard is the second Ivy League school in the competition. Saint Joseph’s is the sixth A10 school 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), Michigan State (2015) and UCLA (2016).
Created in June 2013, the Wooden Legacy was formed when 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.
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. Here is
Cal State Fullerton – Underclassmen guards Khalil Ahmad, Kyle Allman and Austen Awosika, and forward Jackson Rowe rank among the Titan leaders. The three guards have combined to average 27.1 points 5.1 assists per game led by sophomore Ahmad and his 11.6 scoring norm. As a freshman, Rowe is averaging 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game while shooting 56.3 percent from the field.
DePaul – Sophomore guard Eli Cain, who is averaging 15.8 points and 2.7 assists per game, earned BIG EAST All-Freshman Team honors for the 2015-2016 season. Junior forward Tre’Darius McCallum is scoring 10 points a game while grabbing 6.7 rebounds a game for DePaul.
Georgia – Junior Yante Maten, a Karl Malone nominee as one of the nation’s top power forwards, is averaging 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds a game while shooting 52.6 percent from the field during his junior season. Junior guard Juwan Parker is scoring 9.6 points a game with a 5.4 rebound average.
Harvard – Thirteen (13) of the 20-man Crimson roster are freshmen or sophomores. Six of the top nine leading scorers are rookies, as Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns rank 1-2 with 14.3 and 10.9 points per game, respectively. According to KenPom rankings, Harvard is the 10th youngest team in the NCAA.
Saint Joseph’s – The 2016 Atlantic 10 champions, the Hawks’ top seven scorers this season are underclassmen led by the backcourt duo of junior Shavar Newkirk (20.3 points) and sophomore Lamarr Kimble (15.5). However, Newkirk (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and Kimble (fracture foot) are sidelined due to the injuries with forwards junior James Demery (13.4 points and 6.7 rebounds) and freshman Charlie Brown (12.7 and 5.2) assuming the team leadership.
Saint Mary’s – The Gaels will return all but two graduating seniors, Joe Rahon and Dane Pineau. SMC will be led by juniors center Jock Landale (17.0 points and 9.4 rebounds), forward Clark Hermanson (12.6 and 2.6) and guard Emmett Naar (9.9 and 5.4 assists. The No. 15 ranking earlier this season was the highest the Gaels have been ranked by the AP since 1959.
San Diego State – The Aztecs have been led by their starting backcourt this season in junior Trey Kell and sophomore Jeremy Hemsley. Kell is starting for the third-straight season and is averaging 14.4 points a game. Hemsley is second with a 14.1 scoring average.
Washington State – Freshman Malachi Flynn has started every game of his Cougar career at point guard as he is averaging 10.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.