Pac-10 will honor late UCLA legend John Wooden
Pac-10 will dedicate this basketball season to John Wooden, the legendary UCLA coach who died this year at age 99.
Seattle Times staff reporter
LOS ANGELES — The short video montage showed images of past Pac-10 basketball greats, Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning dunking and Oregon's new Matthew Knight Arena.
Then commissioner Larry Scott stepped behind a podium on the Nokia Theatre stage at the men's basketball Media Day and announced three moves intended to bridge the conference's rich tradition with a future that will soon include Utah and Colorado:
• For the first time, the Pac-10 will host the men's and women's tournament semifinals and finals on the same day at Staples Center, on March 11 and 12.
• The league renamed its postseason coaching awards in men's and women's basketball for John Wooden, the UCLA legend who died in June at age 99.
• In addition, the conference is dedicating the season to Wooden.
"What Coach Wooden stood for, the lessons he taught and the impact he had on so many people are truly immeasurable," Scott said. "His gift to all of us was instilling values and principles in the game of basketball that easily transferred to everyday life."
Around the Pac-10
Arizona — Wildcats coach Sean Miller is high on sophomore F Derrick Williams. "He's poised to take that step and be one of the best players, not only in the Pac-10, but playing the game," Miller said. Arizona, which had its streak of 25 NCAA tournament appearances snapped last season, returns four starters and hopes to make a long postseason run.
Arizona State — Herb Sendek, voted coach of the year last season, has led ASU to at least 21 wins and a top-half conference finish each of the past three seasons. The Sun Devils have flown under the radar despite returning three starters and four of their top six scorers from a team that finished second.
California — Bears junior F Harper Kamp said it was odd seeing all the new faces when practice began. "It just hit me, like man, we lost a lot of people," he said. Defending champ California lost four starters, three reserves and 83 percent of its scoring. Kamp, who is returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss last season, is one of the team's leaders along with junior G Jorge Gutierrez. C Markhuri Sanders-Frison is the only senior.
Oregon — Sophomore F Jeremy Jacob was scheduled to attend Media Day, but the sophomore forward had arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday and will miss three to six weeks. New coach Dana Altman, who spent the past 16 years at Creighton, has just 10 scholarship players. "No one is feeling sorry for us," he said.
Oregon State — In his third year, coach Craig Robinson is ready to give the Beavers more offensive responsibilities. "You will see a much more athletic team," he said. "I have let go of the reigns a bit with what they can do offensively." That doesn't mean he's totally scrapped the half-court oriented attack. Angus Brandt, 6-10, is capable of directing the point-center offense, but senior G Calvin Haynes will likely run the show.
Stanford — High-scoring junior G Jeremy Green should offset the loss of Landry Fields, the conference's top scorer last season. Stanford returns four starters, but there's not much proven talent after Green. The Cardinal also returns junior F Josh Owens, who sat out last season with an injury. Coach Johnny Dawkins also brings in a top-rated recruiting class. Experience is a concern. Stanford has nine new players and no seniors.
UCLA — Coach Ben Howland raved about the work ethic of freshman Josh Smith, the Kentwood High standout, who recently lost 50 pounds. "Josh was working out three times a day," Howland said. "He has really put the time in. ... He is going to be a real force down on the low block." The Bruins don't have a senior, which forces junior G Malcolm Lee to lead a talented bunch of underclassmen.
USC — The Trojans are free from a self-imposed one-year postseason ban. Coach Kevin O'Neill has placed the fate of the team in the hands of forwards Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson. The backcourt is a concern. USC is impatiently waiting for junior G Jio Fontan, a transfer from Fordham, to become eligible Dec. 18.
Washington — Coach Lorenzo Romar said he expects junior G Isaiah Thomas and senior F Matthew Bryan-Amaning to fill the scoring void created when Quincy Pondexter graduated. Thomas: "We just have to put our egos aside and not worry about who is scoring the most points and just win ballgames."
Washington State — From worst to first? "This team is good enough to win the (Pac-10) title," junior G Klay Thompson said. "We got all of the pieces in place." Five starters return from a 16-15 team that was 6-12 in conference and finished last in coach Ken Bone's first year. Among the six newcomers, keep an eye on transfer G Faisal Aden. "He's an excellent shooter and he finds ways to score off the bounce," Bone said.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
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