The UTEP Miners will join Long Beach State, Princeton, San Diego, San Jose State, Washington, Western Michigan and Xavier in the 2014 edition of the Wooden Legacy tournament Nov. 27-30 in Anaheim, Calif.
The tournament is in its second year of existence after the former John R. Wooden Classic and Anaheim Classic were combined for the 2013-14 season. Last year’s tournament champion was San Diego State. UTEP participated in the Anaheim Classic in 2008, beating Saint Mary’s (75-62) and losing to no. 19 Wake Forest (82-79) and no. 14 Arizona State (88-58) behind Stefon Jackson, who earned a spot on the All-Tournament team.
UTEP will be participating in a Thanksgiving tournament for the fourth time in five years under coach Tim Floyd. The Miners played in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City in 2010, the Old Spice Classic in Orlando in 2012 and the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas in 2013.
“We’re really glad to be included one more time by ESPN in one of their holiday classics,” Floyd said. “This has become a way of life for our fans to try to plan their holiday schedule around our basketball team. They have put some great fields together and this one is no different. We will be highly challenged, but it is a very important part of preparing us for conference play and trying to build a resume worthy of going to the NCAA Tournament.”
Floyd led USC to the inaugural Anaheim Classic title in 2007.
The 2014 Wooden Legacy will be held at two sites. The opening two rounds will be played at Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, Nov. 27 and Friday, Nov. 28. The games then move to the Honda Center with four placement contests including the championship game on Sunday, Nov. 30. The 12 games will air across ESPN networks.
This year’s field features four 20-game winners from this past season – UTEP (23-11), Princeton (21-9), Western Michigan (23-10) and Xavier (21-13). Western Michigan and Xavier both earned bids to the NCAA Tournament.
The tournament bracket will be announced later this summer.
Tournament Field Capsules
Long Beach State – After starting the season 1-9, the 49ers won 13 of their last 20 games to finish the regular-season with a 14-16 record. Senior guard Tyler Lamb, a UCLA transfer, had an immediate impact this past season when he became eligible in mid-December. Lamb scored in double-figures in 17 of 20 games he’s played with the 49ers to average 15.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Senior Mike Caffey, who ranks as one of the 49ers’ career leaders in scoring (1,081 points) and playmaking (331 assists), led “The Beach” in scoring (16.2) and assists (4.3) last season with a 4.6 rebounding average. Coach Dan Monson will be leading Long Beach State into the Orange County event for the second time as the 49ers went 1-2 at the 2009 Anaheim Classic.
Princeton – Princeton reached the 20-win threshold for the fourth time in five years in 2013-14 and returns three of five starters for the upcoming season. Among the returners is rising sophomore Spencer Weisz (8.7 points per game), the first Princeton player since 2001 to win the Ivy League Rookie of the Year honor and the first Tiger since 1999 to pull down as many as 145 rebounds in his freshman season. The Tigers will have a nice mix of youth and experience in the new campaign, with Weisz and classmate Steven Cook (13 starts, 4.5 points per game) complementing a five-member senior class fronted by leading returning scorer Hans Brase (11.2 points per game).
San Diego – Highlighted by a 69-66 win over nationally-ranked Gonzaga in late February, and two wins in the CIT Postseason Tournament, the 18-17 Toreros featured a potent backcourt led by Christopher Anderson, Johnny Dee and Duda Sanadze. Led by senior Dee’s 16.6 points per game, the trio combined for 39.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game last season. Dee ranks third among the school’s all-time scorers (1,520 points). Senior Anderson is school’s career assist leader (560), and ranks second all-time in steals (196). Junior Sanadze is one of the top European players (Georgia) competing collegiately in the United States. Coach Bill Grier’s USD team won one of three games in the inaugural Anaheim Classic in 2007.
San Jose State – The 2013-14 season was the first step in the rebuilding process for new coach Dave Wojcik as the Spartans finished the regular-season with a 7-23 record. Sophomore guard Rashad Muhammad led the San Jose State team in scoring by averaging 13.2 points per game, a Spartan freshman record, primarily in a sixth-man role. The Spartans were one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the country ranking 12th in attempts and 17th in 3-pointers made per game nationally last season. Wojcik will join his brother (Doug) in coaching a school in Anaheim during the Thanksgiving holiday. Doug Wojcik coached Tulsa in the 2010 Anaheim Classic and College of Charleston in the 2013 Wooden Legacy.
UTEP – The Miners return nine of their top 10 scorers from last year’s 23-11 squad that finished a game out of first place in Conference USA with a 12-4 record. UTEP set a school record by starting 5-0 on the road in conference play last season, and had an eight-game winning streak in league play at one point. The Miners’ top returnees are senior forward/guard Julian Washburn (13.1 points per game) and 2014 Conference USA Freshman of the Year Vince Hunter (12.3 points and 6.5 rebounds). Hunter also joined Washburn in being selected second team All-Conference USA a year ago. The Miners bolstered a depleted backcourt by signing five guards to national letters of intent, including Trey Touchet, a two-time Louisiana Player of the Year and Omega Harris, who finished runner-up for Player of the Year in the state of Oklahoma.
Washington – The Huskies return seven players from last year’s 17-15 squad who accounted for 57 percent of the team’s scoring. The group is led by rising sophomore Nigel Williams-Goss (13.4 points per game) who was named to the 2013-14 Pac-12 All-Freshman team after leading the conference’s freshmen in scoring and was the top frosh in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Williams-Goss also set UW’s freshman assists record (140). He’ll be joined in the backcourt by talented junior Andrew Andrews who finished the final five regular season outings averaging 16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds. The Dawgs’ front court will be led by senior Shawn Kemp Jr., and will feature the return of 6-11 Jernard Jarreau, who missed the 13-14 campaign due to an ACL tear. Entering his 13th season at UW, coach Romar is the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12.
Western Michigan – The Broncos achieved their third 20-plus win season in the past four campaigns by posting a 23-10 record highlighted by a Mid-American Conference post-season tournament title and a berth in the NCAA. With only two seniors on its 14-man active roster this past season, Western Michigan’s top underclassman was Connar Tava. A 6-6 junior forward, Tava averaged 11.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last season. Tava also shot 58.5 percent from the field to rank second in the Mid-American Conference. Entering his 12th season at Western Michigan, Coach Steve Hawkins is the longest tenured coach in the MAC.
Xavier – Coach Chris Mack welcomes back six scholarship letter winners from the 2013-14 team that finished 21-13 overall, third in XU’s first season in the BIG EAST Conference (10-8) and made its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years. Mack also welcomes a talented group of seven newcomers that includes a six-member freshman recruiting class ranked in the top 20 in the nation. Senior Matt Stainbrook, a 6-10 center, and 6-0 senior point guard Dee Davis are the returning starters from last season and will be relied on by Coach Mack as leaders of this year’s squad. Stainbrook, an honorable mention 2014 All-BIG EAST Conference selection by the league coaches, led XU in rebounding (7.4 per game, fifth in BIG EAST) and was third in scoring (10.6 points). Davis led Xavier and was second in the BIG EAST last season in assists (4.7 per game) and is the team’s second-leading returning scorer (7.7). There are several other returnees who are expected to step up this season, including 6-9 sophomore forward Jalen Reynolds, who became a major inside force for Xavier as the 2014 season progressed, including his 17-point, 16-rebound game in the win over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. The excitement among Xavier fans surrounds the seven new faces, including 6-4 junior guard Remy Abell, who becomes eligible this season after transferring from Indiana.