Stanford Faces Gonzaga in Pete Newell Challenge

OAKLAND, Calif.--Four schools (including Stanford University) that qualified for last season's NCAA Tournament, including a likely consensus preseason top-10 pick, plus four outstanding coaches, an expected first-team All-America point guard and an attractive rematch from last season highlight the field for the 2003 Pete Newell Challenge Presented by Allstate, set for Saturday, Dec. 20, at The Arena in Oakland.

The matchups for the seventh-annual doubleheader are as follows: Stanford vs. Gonzaga, St. Joseph's (Pa.) vs. Cal. Game times will be announced at a later date. Stanford (5-0) has never lost in the Pete Newell Challenge. Cal (4-1) lost to eventual national runner-up Kansas, 80-67, last year for its only loss ever in the event.

Tickets for the 2003 Pete Newell Challenge will go on sale in October, through all Tickets.com outlets in the Bay Area and at the arena box office. The Allstate Corp., the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer which provides insurance products to more than 16 million households, returns for its second consecutive year as presenting sponsor of the Pete Newell Challenge.

This year's event offers college basketball fans in the Bay Area four outstanding teams in what promises to be two highly competitive games, with national implications. West Coast Conference powerhouse Gonzaga, which lost a double-overtime thriller, 96-95, to No. 1-seeded Arizona in a memorable NCAA Tournament game last season and has already been ranked in the top 10 in two early preseason polls, will play Stanford in a rematch of last season's Pete Newell Challenge showdown, won by the Cardinal, 84-71.

Stanford returns four of five starters from a 24-9 team that finished second (14-4) in the Pac-10, and earned the school's ninth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal will be led by gifted 6-8 junior swingman Josh Childress (14.1, team-high 8.1 rebounds), who is also a finalist for the Pan Am team and a leading contender for Pac-10 player of the year honors. Stanford will again be strong up front, with 6-9 senior Justin Davis (10.3, 7.8), 6-10 junior Rob Little, 6-9 senior Joe Kirchofer and 6-10 sophomore Matt Haryasz. Sophomore Chris Hernandez steps in to start at the point, complemented by an outstanding shooter, 6-4 senior Matt Lottich (11.3).

Gonzaga also returns four starters from last year's 24-9 team, led by 6-4 senior Blake Stepp, the WCC player of the year (18 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6 assists per game last season) who is one of 17 finalists for the U.S. Pan American Games team that will compete next month in the Dominican Republic. The Bulldogs also feature one of the most imposing frontcourts in America, with 6-10, 243-pound junior Ronny Turiaf (15.6, 6.2), 6-8, 255-pound senior Cory Violette (11.8, 8 rebounds) and 6-11, 275-pound senior Richard Fox, plus 6-4 senior swingman Tony Skinner, who scored 25 points against Arizona, and a standout transfer from Washington in 6-6 sophomore Erroll Knight.

In the other half of the doubleheader, Saint Joseph's of Philadelphia, led by dynamic 6-foot senior preseason All-America and national player of the year candidate Jameer Nelson--perhaps the top point guard in the country after averaging 19.4 points and 4.7 assists per game last season--takes on Cal. Saint Joseph's led the nation in field-goal percentage defense (37.2%) in 2002-03, and ranked seventh in scoring defense.

Besides Nelson, the Hawks, from the Atlantic 10 Conference, also return 6-4 junior shooting guard Delonte West, who averaged 17.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, in what may be the nation's best backcourt. In addition, Saint Joseph's boasts a terrific shooter in 6-5 junior Pat Carroll, brother of former Notre Dame star Matt Carroll, plus two solid sophomore big men in 6-10 Dave Mallon and 6-11 shot-blocker Dwayne Jones.

Cal returns one of the top players in the Pac-10 in versatile 6-11 senior Amit Tamir (14.9, plus a team-best 6.5 rebounds and 61 three-pointers). The Bears also welcome back two other starters, 6-2 sophomore guard Richard Midgley--who hit the game-winning three-pointer in the 76-74 overtime victory over North Carolina State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament--and 6-11 senior center Gabriel Hughes. Cal will also unveil a highly anticipated recruiting class led by former Oakland prep stars Leon Powe and Ayinde Ubaka. The 6-8, 230-pound Powe was a McDonald's All-America selection.

Four outstanding coaches will direct their teams in the 2003 Pete Newell Challenge: Mike Montgomery (Stanford), the 2003 Pac-10 co-Coach of the year, Ben Braun (Cal), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Phil Martelli (Saint Joseph's). Montgomery has won 517 games in 25 seasons at Stanford (17 years) and Montana; Braun has won 473 games in 25 years as a head coach, the last seven at Cal; Few has won an impressive 104 games in his first four years at Gonzaga, and Martelli is 149-97 in eight seasons at Saint Joseph's.

For the first time since 2000, and the fourth time in the event's history, the Pete Newell Challenge will be held before Christmas. The last time the event was held before the Christmas holiday--Dec. 21, 2000--produced one of the memorable evenings in Bay Area basketball history. That night, the largest crowd in California college basketball history, 19,804--including golfer Tiger Woods and current National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice--watched Stanford knock off top-ranked and eventual national champion Duke, 84-83, on Casey Jacobsen's jumper with 3.6 seconds to play. In the second game, Cal beat Georgia, 85-64.

In just six years, the Pete Newell Challenge has become one of the premier events in college basketball. Saint Joseph's is the latest school to join an impressive list of Pete Newell Challenge participants that includes such top national programs as Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Temple, Georgia, Brigham Young and Mississippi State.

Among the elite coaches who have brought their teams to the Bay Area to participate in the Pete Newell Challenge are Hall of Famers Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Bob Knight (Indiana) and John Chaney (Temple), plus Roy Williams (Kansas), Tom Izzo (Michigan State) and Mark Few (Gonzaga).

The Pete Newell Challenge was created to honor the Hall of Fame legend who won a coaching version of the Triple Crown--an NIT championship at USF (1949), an NCAA title at Cal (1959) and an Olympic gold medal for the United States (Rome, 1960).

Newell, who will turn 88 on Aug. 31, continues to teach the game to young men and women through clinics and seminars around the world, and at his annual Pete Newell Big Man Camp. After 10 years in Honolulu, this year's camp moves to Las Vegas, and will be held Aug. 4-8 at the new Cox Pavilion in the Thomas & Mack Center. This summer marks the 26th anniversary of the highly regarded camp, which will focus on college player development only, in two daily sessions.

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