UCLA, Boston College, Arizona, Mississippi State Headline The 2004 John R. Wooden Classic
July 26, 2004
Anaheim, CA - Four of the nation's premier men's college basketball teams will appear in the 11th annual John R. Wooden Classic on December 5th, at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. The UCLA Bruins, in their seventh Classic appearance, will face the Boston College Eagles and the Arizona Wildcats will take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. This will be the first Wooden Classic appearance for both the Eagles and the Bulldogs.Established in 1994, the Wooden Classic is an annual tribute to the legendary former coach and the excellence he personifies. The event, co-produced by Pantheon International, LLC and Anaheim Arena Management, LLC, has a tradition of bringing the nation's finest college programs to Southern California.
Head Coach Ben Howland returns to the Arrowhead Pond for the second consecutive year. Last December he led the Bruins in a tough fight against Kentucky, falling short 52-50. Howland has a history of turning programs around as was seen with his success at Northern Arizona and most recently, at Pittsburgh.Top returning players in the fall will include Dijon Thompson who received Pac 10 Conference honorable mention. UCLA is considered to have one of the top incoming classes in the country. The local talent includes two McDonald's All-Americans Arron Afflalo of Centennial High School in Compton and Jordan Farmar of William H. Taft High School in Woodland Hills.The Bruins are 5-2 in the annual event with a reputation for beating higher ranked opponents, including the inaugural year of 1994 when they defeated #2 Kentucky, 82-81 and then went onto win the National Championship. Other notable victories include 1995 against Maryland (73- 63) and 1998 versus Oklahoma State (69-66).
This year marks the return of the Big East Conference to the Wooden Classic. The last appearance was by Villanova in 1995 when the Wildcats beat Purdue, 67-50. BC is a young, up and coming team that returns four of their five starters from last year's 24-10 team. Led by Coach Al Skinner, they finished the 2003-2004 regular season ranked 25th in the AP Poll.Leading the Eagles are three players from Southern California. Junior Craig Smith of Fairfax High School in Los Angeles led the team in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, blocks and steals. This past season he received All-Big East first-team honors. Sophomore Jared Dudley of Horizon High School in San Diego has been an important part of the team's success and was named to the Big East All-Rookie team.Sophomore Sean Marshall from Eisenhower High School in Rialto will play on the Anaheim court for the second time in his career. He played at the Arrowhead Pond in the 2003 CIF Southern Section High School Championships.
Hall of Fame Coach Lute Olson leads the highly talented Wildcats, who many believe will be the nation's top-ranked team next season. Arizona's roster features All-Pac 10 selection Channing Frye, Pac-10 All-Freshman Mustafa Shakur and high school McDonald's All-American Hassan Adams from Westchester High School in Los Angeles.Olson will bring the Arizona Wildcats to Anaheim for their third Wooden Classic and seventh game in the Arrowhead Pond. The Wildcats are undefeated in the Classic having beaten Purdue, 79-66, in 2001 and Utah, 69-61, in 1996. After the December 1996 appearance, Arizona went on to win the National Championship.They have also appeared in front of Southern California basketball fans in four NCAA West Regional games. In 1998, they defeated Maryland (87-79) but went onto lose to Utah (76-51) and in 2003, they beat Notre Dame (88-71) before losing to Kansas (78-75).Mississippi StateMississippi State finished the 2003-04 regular season with their first outright SEC Championship and highest end-of-season ranking (No. 8) since the 1962-63 season. With a 26-4 overall record, Mississippi State was seeded No. 2 in the Atlanta Region of the NCAA Tournament, the highest in the school's history.Continuing with the accolades, forward/center Lawrence Roberts was named SEC Player of the Year, first-team All-American and MSU's first-ever Wooden Award All-American. The first-team All-American honor was the first for a Bulldog since NBA Hall of Famer Bailey Howell after the 1958-59 season. Roberts, a senior in the fall, will be a candidate for National Player of the Year. Leading the Bulldogs for the seventh season is SEC Coach of the Year, Rick Stansbury.Living up to the promise of showcasing the best in college basketball, the 2003 Classic featured Stanford and Kentucky who finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2004 regular season, respectively. Both teams entered the NCAA tournament as No. 1 seeds. In the 2003 Wooden Classic, Stanford defeated Kansas, ranked No. 1 at the time, and Kentucky beat UCLA.Tickets for the Wooden Classic will go on sale to the public in October; one ticket allows admission to both games. Visit www.woodenclassic.com for more information on the Wooden Classic and the annual golf tournament and banquet benefiting Special Olympics Southern California and Orangewood Children's Foundation.For more information, please contact -
Julie Hoekwater, Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim