May 6, 1998
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Atherton Communications, organizers of the John R. Wooden Classic, announced today that UCLA and Kansas University, both of whom participated in the historic inaugural doubleheader, will return to face Oklahoma State University and Pepperdine University, respectively, in the fifth annual Wooden Classic, to be held again at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
The Wooden Classic has hosted the last four NCAA Champions - UCLA ('95), Kentucky ('96,'98) and Arizona ('97), plus two of this year's Final Four participants, Stanford and Utah.
The 1998 Wooden Classic continues its tradition of showcasing the nation's finest teams and coaches with a field that will feature future Hall of Famers Eddie Sutton (OSU) and Roy Williams (Kansas) vs. two of college basketball's young rising stars, Steve Lavin (UCLA) and Lorenzo Romar (Pepperdine). Lavin and Romar coached together as UCLA assistants during the inaugural Wooden Classic.
Sutton, the 1998 Big-12 Coach of the Year, is 179-77 after eight seasons with the Cowboys and holds a career record of 609-241 after 28 years as a head coach, including stints at Kentucky and Arkansas. Williams, a two-time National Coach of the Year, has the highest winning percentage among active Div. I coaches (81.9%), with 282 wins and 62 losses. Entering his 11th season with the Jayhawks, Williams has won more games in his first ten seasons than any coach in history, while leading Kansas to the Final Four twice.
Lavin has led the Bruins to the 1997 NCAA Elite Eight and the 1998 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as the 1997 Pacific-10 title, while posting a record of 48-17.
After inheriting a program in need of re-building, Romar has coached the Waves to the second most improved Div. I record in the country (Connecticut was most improved) in only two seasons at the helm.
The UCLA-OSU game will be a rematch of their 1995 Final Four meeting in Seattle, which the Bruins won en route to their 11th national championship.
UCLA is expected to return to the Classic next season with Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Baron Davis, now in rehabilitation after successful left knee surgery and fellow Pac-10 All Freshmen selection, 6'0" guard Earl Watson. UCLA also landed the top recruiting class in the nation, led by three McDonald's All- Americans - 6'11" center Dan Gadzuric from the Netherlands via Governor Dummer Academy outside Boston, 6'6" forward JaRon Rush from the Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City and 6'5" guard Ray Young, from St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda, CA. The Bruins also signed Jerome Moiso from France, via Milford MoreAcademy in CT, a 6'10" center with international experience who is rated as one of the top big men in the class and 6'7" forward Matt Barnes, another top 50 senior from Del Campo in Fair Oaks, CA.
OSU returns seven of the top nine players from a team that went 22-7, finished second to Kansas in the Big 12 and nearly knocked Duke out of the NCAA tournament in the second round. Leading the Cowboys at point guard next year is Big-12 Newcomer of the Year (Notre Dame transfer), Doug Gottlieb, from Tustin, CA, and three double-figure scorers, Adrian Peterson (17.7 ppg), Desmond Mason (14.6 ppg) and Joe Adkins (12.6 ppg).
Perennial national powerhouse Kansas, faces the revived Pepperdine Waves for the second year in a row, after posting a hard-fought 96-83 victory at Allen Fieldhouse in December '97. Last season, Kansas was the Big-12 Conference champion, the Big-12 Tournament champion and finished with a school record-tying 35 wins against only 4 losses. Over the last two years, the Jayhawks have posted an incredible 69-6 record, while playing one of the toughest non- conference schedules in the country. Kansas loses All-Americans Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce, but returns with senior Ryan Robertson, one of the nation's top guards, 7'0" sophomore center Eric Chenowith, from Villa Park, CA and 6'9" power forward (LSU transfer) Lester Earl, who makes his second trip to the Wooden Classic after playing in '96 with his former team.
Pepperdine (17-10) returns three starters and eight lettermen plus three players now eligible after sitting out a year. The experienced Waves are led by All-WCC selection, 6'6" senior guard (Cal transfer) Jelani Gardner, 6'7" junior forward (Notre Dame transfer) David Lalazarian, 6'11" junior center (LSU transfer) Nick Sheppard, 6'11" and 6'5" sophomore Tommie Prince who was a local star at Compton (CA). Sheppard also makes his second appearance at the Wooden Classic.
Established in 1994, the John R. Wooden Classic is an annual tribute to the legendary former UCLA coach and the excellence he personifies. The Wooden Classic is a celebration of the game of basketball and the activities benefit Southern California children's hospitals and high school athletic programs. In addition to the annual NCAA showcase doubleheader, this year's events include the Wooden Classic High School Basketball Invitational, the Wooden Classic Golf Tournament and the Wooden Classic Banquet.
Tickets are scheduled to go on sale in October at the Arrowhead Pond Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets. For more information call 714-704-2920 or visit www.woodenclassic.com.
Wooden Classic Results: 1994 Kansas 81-UMass 75, UCLA 82-Kentucky 81 1995 Villanova 67-Purdue 50, UCLA 73-Maryland 63 1996 Arizona 69-Utah 61, Louisville 93-LSU 87 OT 1997 Stanford 76-Georgia 74, UCLA 69-UNM 58