March 13, 2002
BERKELEY - Cal will play Georgia and USC will face Missouri in the ninth annual John R. Wooden Classic on Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.
The announcement means that Cal will play in a pair of neutral-site games next season. On Dec. 28, the Bears will meet Kansas and Stanford will battle Gonzaga in the Pete Newell Challenge in Oakland.
The Cal vs. Georgia game marks the return of Bulldogs' head coach Jim Harrick to Southern California. As the UCLA coach, Harrick led the Bruins to victories against Kentucky and Maryland in the December '94 and '95 Wooden Classic, respectively.
"We are very excited about coming to California and playing at the Pond in the Wooden Classic," said Harrick. "It's just a great event and will be a big time day for our student athletes."
Georgia (21-9), which shared the SEC East Division championship, also played in the '97 Wooden Classic against Stanford. The entire Bulldog starting team returns next season including 6-6 guard and SEC Newcomer of the Year Jarvis Hayes. Georgia was selected as the No. 3 seeded team in the East Regional.
Cal (22-8) just completed one of its best seasons in several years and returns four starters. The Bears are making their first appearance in the Wooden Classic and their game against Georgia marks only the second meeting between the schools. Cal defeated the Bulldogs, 85-64, at the 2000 Newell Challenge in Oakland. This season, Cal is seeded sixth in the South Regional.
USC (22-9) will be making its third appearance in the Wooden Classic, having beaten Utah in '00 and losing to Duke in '99. Trojan head coach Henry Bibby won three national championships at UCLA while playing for Wooden. Bibby's Trojans have become one of the top teams in the Pac-10 and next season will return Jerry Dupree, Demond Farmer and Errick Craven. USC is the fourth seed in the South Regional.
The Missouri Tigers (21-11) will play in Southern California for the first time since their trip to the 1994 NCAA West Regional in Los Angeles. Head coach Quin Snyder has high hopes for next season with the loss of only one senior starter and the probable return of leading scorer and All-American guard Kareem Rush. Rush recently stated that unless he is certain of becoming a NBA lottery pick in the June draft, he plans on returning for his senior year. Missouri was selected as the 12th seed in the West Regional.
Established in 1994, the John R. Wooden Classic is an annual tribute to the legendary former coach and the excellence he personifies. The event traditionally hosts college basketball's elite programs. The Wooden Classic is a celebration of the game of basketball and the activities benefit Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC). In addition to the doubleheader, event week activities include the Wooden Classic Golf Tournament at Pelican Hill Golf Club and the Wooden Classic Benefit Dinner.
For information, visit woodenclassic.com or arrowheadpond.com or call 714-704-2920.