Jalen Brunson (1)
Jalen Brunson (1)
Much was made of Villanova’s balanced, prolific scoring as the Wildcats mowed down one opponent after another in one of the most dominant runs through an NCAA Tournament in years.
Lurking in the shadows was a highly underrated defense, one that turned around Monday night’s national championship game with Michigan.
Allowing the Wolverines to make just 43.6 percent of their field-goal attempts and just 3 of 23 tries from 3-point range, the top-seeded Wildcats notched their second title in three years with a 79-62 verdict at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
In becoming the first team since North Carolina nine years ago to win every tournament game by double figures, Villanova (36-4) got a game-high 31 points from sixth man Donte DiVincenzo and 19 from Mikal Bridges.
Yet even DiVincenzo, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player who steamrolled Michigan with a run of 10 straight points late in the first half and another burst of nine straight points in the second half, pointed to his defense as the most satisfying factor.
“The blocked shots, definitely,” he said when asked if scoring 31 points or rejecting a pair of shots pleased him more. “I pride myself on defense and bringing energy to this team.”
The Wildcats’ versatility and ability to play positionless basketball on offense also translates to the defensive end. Almost everyone in the Villanova rotation can guard multiple positions, allowing the team to switch screens if needed, and most of the player are quick enough to deny opponents their favorite spots.
Michigan (33-8) was able to execute its offense well enough for the first 10 minutes, leading on Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman to grab a 21-16 lead just over 12 minutes into the game. However, when Villanova started cutting off driving lanes and forcing the Wolverines to settle for jumpers, the game changed.
“They obviously played the drive better, and I turned it over a couple of times,” Wagner said. “You have to give them credit. They’re a really good team defensively and when they play like that, they’re tough to beat.”
DiVincenzo’s outburst made beating Villanova just about impossible. The Big East Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year scored 10 of his 18 first-half points in a span of just 2:55, keying a 23-7 spurt that turned a seven-point deficit into a 37-28 halftime lead.
Canning 3-pointers, scoring off the dribble and even drilling one long jumper over two defenders, DiVincenzo put Michigan in a hole it wasn’t about to escape.
“We needed to play better,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said, “but even if we had played at our best, it would have been very difficult to win with what DiVincenzo (was doing).”
Wagner scored to start the second half, but the Wildcats weren’t about to let suspense enter the equation. Continuing to string stops together while regaining rhythm offensively, they hit Michigan with a 14-3 run that Bridges capped with a 3-pointer for a 51-33 lead with 14:36 left.
The Wolverines kept working but couldn’t get closer than 12 for the game’s remainder. DiVincenzo peeled off nine straight points in a 2:39 stretch, finishing it with a 3-pointer with 7:57 on the clock to make it 62-44.
Fittingly, it was DiVincenzo who dribbled out the final 10 seconds, flinging the ball toward the ceiling of the cavernous football stadium as his teammates mobbed him.
“We grind every single day in practice,” he said. “To experience this is a dream come true.”
Abdur-Rahkman paced Michigan with 23 points and Wagner contributed 16, but their best efforts just weren’t enough to hold off Villanova.
“I can’t put this into words,” Brunson said. “This is spectacular.”
NOTES: Villanova became the first team since North Carolina in 2015 to lead the country in scoring and win the national title. … The 2009 Tar Heels were the last team to win every tourney game by double digits. … DiVincenzo was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Bridges, Jalen Brunson and Eric Paschall along with Michigan’s Wagner. … The Wildcats’ win follows the Eagles’ Super Bowl triumph, making Philadelphia the first city ever to win the Super Bowl championship and the NCAA championship in the same year, according to TBS.
SAN ANTONIO – Villanova is one win away from its second national championship in three seasons, but its final hurdle appears to be a daunting one. Michigan owns the longest winning streak in the nation at 14 games and will attempt to upset the Wildcats when the teams square off Monday in San Antonio in the NCAA Tournament title game.Villanova was a good 3-point shooting team in 2015-16 when it won the national championship (highlighted, of course, by Kris Jenkins’ championship-clinching 3-pointer at the buzzer), but the Big East champions have taken it to a new level this season.
The Wildcats set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers in Saturday’s semifinal victory over Kansas and have made at least 13 3-pointers in four of their five wins in this event. “It’s our best offensive team. We’ve had some good ones. This is definitely our best,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose squad hopes to hand Michigan its first loss since Feb. 6. The Wolverines defeated upstart Loyola Chicago on Saturday, rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to move to the brink of their first title since 1989.
TV: 9:20 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT MICHIGAN (33-7): The Wolverines won their final six regular-season games, followed by a 3-for-3 run in the Big Ten Tournament and a smooth surge through the first five games of the Big Dance, although they have yet to defeat a team seeded higher than No. 6 in this event. They have given up more than 63 points only once in this tournament and harassed Loyola into 1-of-10 3-point shooting and 17 turnovers, while Moritz Wagner (24 points, 15 rebounds) handled the bulk of the burden offensively. Charles Matthews added 17 points, but fellow starting guards Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson combined for seven points on 2-of-17 shooting and must be better against the Wildcats’ talented backcourt.
ABOUT VILLANOVA (35-4): With Wooden Award finalist Jalen Brunson leading the way, the Wildcats are the top scoring team in the nation (86.8 points), which provides a nice contrast with the Wolverines, who are eighth nationally in points allowed (62.9). Brunson had 18 points against Kansas, second on the team to Eric Paschall, who recorded 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 3-pointers), while Omari Spellman chipped in 15 points and 13 rebounds and Donte DiVincenzo had 15 points off the bench. Mikal Bridges, potentially the top NBA prospect in this year’s Final Four, had 10 points against the Jayhawks and is capable of erupting from 3-point range, as the junior has drained multiple 3s in 13 of the last 14 games.
1. Aside from the Elite Eight, when he shot 0-of-7 from the arc against Florida State, Wagner is 9-of-15 from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Villanova is the fifth team to win its first five games by double digits. The only team in that group to lose the championship game was North Carolina (against Villanova) two years ago.
3. Villanova defeated Michigan en route to winning the 1985 national championship and won the last matchup in 2014, but this will be only the fourth meeting.
SAN ANTONIO – Eric Paschall sat out as a sophomore transfer on the 2016 Villanova team that won the school’s first national title in 31 years.
Two years later, he and the Wildcats are back, hunting another NCAA championship with a squad of sharpshooters that set a Final Four record Saturday night against helpless Kansas.
Paschall canned four of Villanova’s 18 3-pointers and scored a game-high 24 points, leading six players in double figures as the Wildcats routed the Jayhawks 95-79 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Villanova (35-4) will take on Michigan, a 69-57 winner over Loyola-Chicago in the first semifinal Saturday, in the championship game Monday night. The Wildcats will be solid favorites after hitting 55.4 percent from the field and leading by double figures for the final 35:58 against a fellow top seed.
Part of the reason is Paschall, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound redshirt junior who is one of six players on the team to average in double figures. All six can play position-less basketball, able to score from anywhere on the floor and move the ball around until someone gets a clean look.
“It just feels good,” Paschall said. “My teammates trusted me, filled me with that confidence.”
Overconfidence would have been Villanova’s only problem on this night, given how well it shot the ball from the arc. It canned six 3-pointers in the game’s first 6:57, establishing a 22-4 lead when Collin Gillespie came off the bench to sink a three. One of the two 2-pointers in that span was a highlight-reel dunk by Paschall of a missed three from Omari Spellman.
By halftime, when the Wildcats led 47-32, they had tied the single-game record for a Final Four with 13 threes. A desperation heave from Paschall to beat the shot clock 61 seconds into the second half found the net to give Villanova the record and a 50-34 lead.
Six different Wildcats converted multiple 3-pointers, and they also shredded Kansas’ defense when they overcommitted on the perimeter. They finished the game at 55.4 percent from the field, going 18-of-25 on 2-point attempts.
“Kansas did a good job of getting out on our shooters,” claimed Villanova coach Jay Wright, “and (Paschall) did a good job making plays one-on-one.”
Spellman added 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Jalen Brunson contributed 18 points and six assists. Donte DiVincenzo scored 15 points off the bench. Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges each tallied 10.
Devonte’ Graham bagged 23 points to lead the Jayhawks (31-8). Malik Newman, who scored all 13 overtime points in a Midwest Region championship win over Duke that got Kansas to San Antonio, added 21. Sviatoslav Mykhailuk scored 10 points.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t have the perfect roster to win all those games, win the league … it seemed to catch up to us a little today but I’m not going to think of it as sour.”
Newman’s jumper with 9:20 left pulled the Jayhawks within 71-57, but the Wildcats methodically restored the lead to 20. DiVincenzo’s 3-pointer with 3:57 remaining made it an 83-63 game, and all that was left to do from there was settle the final margin.
Scoring could be a bit tougher for Villanova against Michigan, which has held three of its NCAA Tournament opponents under 60 points with discipline, length and intelligent challenges on jump-shooters.
“They’re really long defensively, really disciplined,” Wright said of the Wolverines. “They present matchup nightmares. But when you get to this point, you’re going to play a great team.”
–Field Level Media
In one of the most unlikely Final Four semifinal matchups ever, Loyola appeared on course to extend its stunning NCAA Tournament run to the national championship game.
Then Moritz Wagner and Michigan’s long-armed defense snuffed out the team that grabbed at America’s heartstrings for a couple of weeks.
Wagner’s 24 points and 14 rebounds, along with the Wolverines’ defense that forced a spate of turnovers during a game-breaking 17-2 run, were the storylines in a 69-57 win Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The result pushed Michigan (33-7), the West Region champs, into the national championship game Monday night against either Kansas or Villanova. The Ramblers, trying to win their first national title since 1963, ended a terrific season at 32-6.
They didn’t have an answer for Wagner, the 6-foot-11 junior from Germany who has helped lead the Wolverines and coach John Beilein to the brink of his first national title in a distinguished career.
Wagner tied the game at 47 on a 3-pointer with 6:56 remaining, then capped the game-breaking run with a 3-point play at the 4:59 mark to make it 54-47. When Loyola tried to fight back, Wagner answered with a layup and another 3 to up the margin to 59-51 with 2:59 left, essentially ending the Ramblers’ hopes.
“I was taking what the opponent is giving me, what the game is giving me,” Wagner said. “I was just trying to stay emotionally solid.”
While Wagner supplied the points, he and his teammates wouldn’t have reached Monday night without clamping down defensively. After trailing 12-4 before the game’s second TV timeout, Loyola found its sea legs and started carving up the Wolverines with good spacing and precise execution.
After ending the first half with a 25-10 run to take a seven-point halftime lead, the Ramblers extended their advantage to 10 when freshman center Cameron Krutwig converted a 3-point play. They owned a 45-37 lead after two Clayton Custer free throws with 11:25 remaining when Michigan went to work.
In a 7:42 span, Loyola managed just two points — a Krutwig layup at the 9:19 mark. The Ramblers coughed up five turnovers over four minutes as the Wolverines’ length forced some poor passes, as well as bad decisions.
“We made a couple of shots, but our defense got better,” Beilein said. “It was really good down the stretch.”
Charles Matthews added 17 points for Michigan, which won despite making only 42.4 percent from the field and 7-of-28 on 3-point attempts. It outrebounded Loyola 35-31 and committed just 11 turnovers.
Krutwig paced the Ramblers with 17 points, but also coughed up six of their 17 turnovers. Custer, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, finished with 15 points. Aundre Jackson hit for 10.
But it wasn’t enough to deny Wagner and the Wolverines.
“It’s incredible; I’ve really enjoyed this ride,” Wagner said. “I’m so happy to share it with these guys. We have one more to go.”
–Field Level Media
SAN ANTONIO – The NCAA Tournament has been as wild as ever, but there is some stability in San Antonio, as No. 1 seeds Villanova and Kansas square off Saturday in an intriguing Final Four matchup. The teams each have one of the five Wooden Award finalists at point guard, with Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham leading their respective teams into this star-studded clash.Brunson has guided the Wildcats into the Final Four for the second time in three seasons despite scoring 16 points or fewer in three of the team’s first four games in this event and not racking up more than four assists in any NCAA Tournament contest. “The outside thinks about this one-on-one matchup between me and Devonte’,” Brunson told reporters. “I just really focus on Villanova versus Kansas.” Graham, a senior whose team had lost in the Elite Eight each of the previous two years, has yet to shoot above 40 percent in any of the four tournament games, although fortunately Malik Newman has stepped up to shoulder the scoring load. Newman scored all 13 of the Jayhawks’ points in overtime against Duke in the Elite Eight, finishing with a career-high 32 to help Kansas reach the Final Four for the second time since winning the 2008 title.
TV: 8:49 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT VILLANOVA (34-4): The Wildcats have won their four tournament games by 26, 23, 12 and 12 points, but the Elite Eight win over Texas Tech followed a different formula than the first three games. Villanova shot only 33.3 percent against the Red Raiders and finished with 71 points – well below the team’s country-leading average of 86.6 points – and they also shot just 4-of-24 from behind the 3-point line – highly uncharacteristic for a team that shoots 40 percent from long range overall. Mikal Bridges missed all five of his 3-point attempts, ending his streak of 11 straight games with at least three 3s, including 10 contests in which he made at least 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
ABOUT KANSAS (31-7): The Jayhawks have five double-digit scorers on the season – including Graham, who is part of a four-guard attack, and big man Udoka Azubuike, who is rounding into form after missing the Big 12 Tournament with a knee injury. Newman has made 13 3-pointers in the last three games, averaging nearly 26 points per game in that stretch, and Lagerald Vick has been consistent with either 13 or 14 points in all four games of the tournament. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk notched 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against Duke, but the Jayhawks’ fate likely will come down to Graham, who had a game-high 17 points two years ago when Kansas was upended by Villanova in the Elite Eight.
1. Villanova is one win away from tying the school record of 35 set by the 2016 national championship team.
2. Azubuike is shooting 77.2 percent from the field this season – by far the best in the nation.
3. The winner of this game will return to the court for Monday’s championship game against either Michigan or Loyola-Chicago.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the 13 members of the Class of 2018 to be honored September 6-8, 2018 during this season’s enshrinement festivities in Springfield, Massachusetts. The formal anouncement was made in San Antonio, Texas the site of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
This year’s class includes two-time NBA champion Ray Allen, four-time NBA All-Star Maurice Cheeks, the only coach in NCAA history to be named as his Conference’s Coach of the Year in four different collegiate conferences Charles “Lefty” Driesell, seven-time NBA All-Star Grant Hill, 10-time NBA All-Star Jason Kidd, two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, three-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith and four-time WNBA champion Tina Thompson.
Distinguished committees focused on preserving all areas from the game also selected five directly elected members. They include Charlie Scott from the Veterans Committee, Dino Radja from the International Committee, Ora Mae Washington from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, and Rod Thorn and Rick Welts from the Contributor Committee.
“The Basketball Hall of Fame is proud to honor the best in the game, both men and women at all levels and throughout the world,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “The Class of 2018 is a remarkable bunch with accolades spanning decades and continents. As players, coaches, and executives, we thank them for their contributions to the game and look forward to honoring them during Enshrinement this fall.”
To be elected, North American and Women’s Committee finalists must receive 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Direct elect committees are incorporated into the election process to maintain a strong focus on keeping history on the forefront of the voting procedures and to preserve a balance between two eras of basketball.
“The Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 is a unique blend of modern-day All-Stars and those who paved the way decades ago,” said Jerry Colangelo, Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board. “We are very pleased to honor each of these well-deserving electees in the birthplace of basketball this September.”
The Class of 2018 will be enshrined on Friday, September 7 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Ticket packages to the 2018 Enshrinement Ceremony, presented by NIKE and all Enshrinement events are on sale now and available online at www.hoophall.com or by calling the Basketball Hall of Fame at (413) 231-5513. Premium Sponsors of Enshrinement 2018 include Haggar Clothing Company, Zales, Nike, Mohegan Sun and Panini.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018:
North American Committee:
RAY ALLEN [Player] – Allen is a two-time NBA Champion, winning rings with the Boston Celtics (2008) and Miami Heat (2013). During his 18-year NBA career, Allen was selected as an All-Star 10 times (2000-2002, 2004-2009, 2011). He remains the NBA career leader in three-point field goals made (2,973) and is ranked sixth on the all-time free throw percentage list (.894). As a UConn Husky from 1993-1996, Allen was selected to the First Team All-Big East twice (1995,1996) and was a unanimous First Team All-American in 1996. On the International stage, Allen was named the USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year in 1995 and won an Olympic gold medal in 2000. He was awarded the NBA Sportsmanship award in 2003 and has continued his charitable work into retirement.
MAURICE CHEEKS [Player] – Since 1978, Cheeks has been involved with the NBA as either a player or a coach. He is a four-time NBA All-Star (1983, 1986-1988), a four-time NBA All-Defensive team selection (1983-86), and a member of the 1983 NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers. After a 15-year professional playing career, Cheeks retired fifth on the NBA career list for both assists (7,392) and steals (2,310). A native of Chicago, Cheeks played collegiately as West Texas State College (1974-1978), where he was a two-time All-Conference player. Cheeks is currently an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
CHARLES “LEFTY’ DRIESELL [Coach] – A native of Norfolk, Virginia and graduate of Duke University, Driesell is the only coach in NCAA history to win 100 games at four different schools and just one of 11 coaches to lead four schools to the NCAA Tournament. He is the only coach in NCAA history to be named Conference Coach of the Year in four different conferences and is known at the inventor of the “Midnight Madness” concept. Driesell currently ranks 12th among Division I coaches in all-time victories with an overall coaching record of 786-394 (.666). His teams have appeared in 21 postseason tournaments (13 NCAA, 8 NIT). Driesell received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1974 after saving children from a house fire and was inducted in the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
GRANT HILL [Player] – Hill, a 19-year NBA veteran, is a seven-time NBA All-Star (1995-1998, 2000, 2001, 2005) and the 1995 NBA Co-Rookie of the Year. He was selected to the All-NBA First Team in 1997 and the All-NBA Second Team four times (1996, 1998-2000). As a student-athlete at Duke, Hill was a member of two NCAA national championship teams (1991, 1992). He was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team twice (1992, 1994) and earned the distinctions of NABC Defensive Player of the Year (1993), ACC Player of the Year (1994), and unanimous First Team All-America (1994). In 2005, he was named one of ESPN’s 50 Top College Players of All Time. With USA Basketball, he won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games. Hill is a three-time recipient of the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award (2005, 2008, 2010) and a 2012 recipient of the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award for his philanthropic efforts.
JASON KIDD [Player] – Kidd, a native of the Bay Area, is a 10-time NBA All-Star (1996, 1998, 2000-2004, 2007, 2008, 2010), the 1995 NBA Co-Rookie of the Year and an NBA Champion with the Dallas Mavericks (2011). In his 18-year NBA career, he earned All-NBA First Team honors five times (1999-2002, 2004) and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team four times (1999, 2001, 2002, 2006). Kidd ranks second on both the NBA all-time steals list (2,684) and the all-time assists list (12,091). At the University of California (1992-1994), Kidd was named Pac-10 Player of the Year and a consensus First-Team All American in 1994. As a high school athlete at St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda, Kidd was named California’s Mr. Basketball twice (1991, 1992) and the Naismith Prep Player of the Year (1992). Internationally, Kidd has won two Olympic gold medals (2000, 2008) and the title of USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (2007).
STEVE NASH [Player] – Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Nash played in the NBA for 19 years, earning MVP honors twice (2005, 2006). An eight-time NBA All-Star (2002-2003, 2005-2008, 2010, 2012), Nash is also a three-time All-NBA First Team member (2005-2007). After leading the NBA in Assists Per Game for five seasons (2005-2007, 2010, 2011), he is ranked third in all-time assists. Nash holds the NBA record for highest career free throw percentage (.904) and had four seasons in which he compiled a shooting percentage at or above 50% for field goals, 40% for three-pointers, and 90% for free throws during the entire NBA regular season, the most of any player in the history of the league. Nash attended Santa Clara (1992-1996) where he was named West Coast Conference Player of the Year twice (1995, 1996).
KATIE SMITH [Player] – Smith is a WNBA Finals MVP (2008) and two-time WNBA Champion with the Detroit Shock (2006, 2008). A native of Ohio, Smith played for the Ohio State University (1992-1996) where she was named Big Ten Player of the Year (1996). In 2001, she was the first female Buckeye athlete to have her number retired. With the ABL’s Columbus Quest, Smith was a two-time ABL All-Star (1997, 1998) and two-time ABL Champion (1997, 1998). In the WNBA, Smith was selected as an All-Star seven times (2000-2003, 2005, 2006, 2009), and was named to the WNBA’s Top 20 at 20 in 2016. Smith is the all-time leading scorer in women’s professional basketball, having scored over 7,000 points in both her ABL and WNBA career. As a member of USA Basketball, Smith earned FIBA World Championship gold in 1998 and 2002, and Olympic gold in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Smith is currently the head coach of the New York Liberty.
TINA THOMPSON [Player] – Thompson is a four-time WNBA Champion with the Houston Comets (1997- 2000) and a nine-time WNBA All-Star (1999-2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013). She was the first player selected in 1997 WNBA draft and earned All-WNBA First Team honors three times (1997, 1998, 2004). In commemoration of the league’s 20-year history in 2016, Thompson was named to the list of Top 20 players. A native of Los Angeles, she played for University of Southern California (1993-1997) and attended high school and college with Class of 2015 Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie. On the International stage, Thompson won a Russian National League Championship and EuroLeague Championship in 2007, as well as a Romanian National League Championship in 2010. As a member of USA Basketball, she earned Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Direct Elect Members:
ROD THORN [Contributor] – Rod Thorn has been a fixture in professional basketball for over 50 years as a player, coach and executive. He played eight years in the NBA (1963-1971) and was a member of the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1964. Upon retirement, Thorn had coaching stints in both the NBA and ABA, winning an ABA championship in 1974 with Julius Erving. In 1978, Thorn became general manager of the Chicago Bulls and was instrumental in the team’s selection of Michael Jordan in 1984. From 1986 to 2000, he served as the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations while also being the Chair of the Senior Men’s Basketball Committee for USA Basketball (1992- 2000). Thorn joined the Nets in 2000, where he earned Executive of the Year honors in 2002. In 2010, Thorn was announced as the 76ers President of Basketball Operations, a position he held for 3 years before returning to the NBA league office as President of Basketball Operations in 2013. In 2015, Thorn received the Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award.
RICK WELTS [Contributor] – Rick Welts is a National Basketball Association executive credited with transforming the NBA All-Star game into what the extended mega-event NBA All-Star Weekend is today. With 40 years of experience, Welts got his start in the league as a ballboy for the Seattle SuperSonics, eventually rising to Director or Public Relations for the team and moving on to numerous leadership positions including NBA Executive Vice-President and CMO (1996-1999), President and CEO of the Phoenix Suns (2009-2011), and President and COO of the Golden State Warriors (2011-Present). He played a key role in the organization of international preseason games and the opening of international NBA offices. Welts developed the marketing campaign for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic “Dream Team” and in 1998 was named Brandweek’s Marketer of the Year for his work on the launch of the WNBA.
Early African American Pioneers Committee:
ORA MAE WASHINGTON [Player] – Ora Mae Washington was born in 1898 and was arguably the greatest female athlete of her time. Playing with the Germantown Hornets and Philadelphia Tribunes, she was a part of 11 straight Women’s Colored Basketball Championship teams, while serving as the team’s center, leading scorer and coach. In 18 years, her team lost just six games total – all to men’s teams. Washington was also a world class tennis player winning nationals singles titles in the All Black American Tennis Association eight times and 12 straight doubles championships. Her career was unfortunately limited by rules that prohibited her from competing against the top white players and she retired from sports in the mid-1940s. Washington influenced future generations of female athletes, including Althea Gibson, the first person of color to win a Grand Slam.
DINO RADJA [Player] – Dino Radja is a Croatian professional basketball player who played four memorable seasons with the NBA’s Boston Celtics, but spent the majority of his career in Europe. He led his teams to several championships, always a winner no matter where he played. Radja won three straight European League titles, finished second for the Euroscar three times, and earned gold medals at the 1989 and 1991 European Championships. As Olympian, he helped secure silver medals for Yugoslavia in 1988 and the new Croatian team in 1992. Radja was named the Greek League Final MVP (1998) and the EuroLeague Final Four MVP (1989), as well as one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1991 and one of the 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors in 2008.
CHARLIE SCOTT [Player] – Charlie Scott was a five-time All-Star during his professional career in both the American Basketball Association (1970-1972) and the National Basketball Association (1972-1980). In his two ABA seasons, he earned Rookie of the Year and averaged a lead record 34.6 points per game in his second ABA season. He has since been named to the 30-man ABA All-Time Team. Scott joined the NBA in 1972, winning a championship with the Boston Celtics in 1976. Scott was the first African American scholarship athlete at the University of North Carolina, where he was a two-time All American. He led his team to back-to-back Final Four appearances with legendary coach Dean Smith.
Third-seeded Michigan hopes its historic season culminates in a title game appearance as it faces No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago in the national semifinal on Saturday in San Antonio. The Wolverines, who have won 13 consecutive games – including 10 straight away from home – held off ninth-seeded Florida State 58-54 in the Elite 8 to set a new program record for wins in a season with 32 and hope to reach the national championship game for the second time since 2013.
SAN ANTONIO – (Staff Report from Official News Release) – Villanova University guard Jalen Brunson was named winner of the Oscar Robertson Trophy as the 2018 National Player of the Year in voting by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
The trophy’s namesake, “The Big O,” was on hand at the Alamodome, site of this weekend’s Final Four, to announce Brunson as the winner. The formal presentation of the award will take place at the College Basketball Awards dinner April 9 at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis. In addition to the Oscar Robertson Trophy, other awards to be presented at the sold-out event are the Henry Iba Award for National Coach of the Year to Virginia’s Tony Bennett, and the Wayman Tisdale Award for the National Freshman Player of the Year to Oklahoma’s Trae Young. Former Missouri and Hall of Fame coach Norm Stewart and retired referee Ed Hightower each will receive lifetime achievement awards.
“Jalen Brunson is the most essential force on a terrific Villanova team, both a team player and dynamic individual talent,” USBWA president Vahé Gregorian of The Kansas City Star said. “The USBWA is delighted to recognize him as our player of the year.”
This is the first time a Villanova player has won the Oscar Robertson Trophy. A consensus All-America selection and the USBWA’s District II Player of the Year, Brunson is a composite of a celebrated student-athlete. The 6-3 guard from Lincolnshire, Ill., led the Wildcats to a 27-4 regular-season record and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 19.1 points and 4.8 assists per game. His season shooting percentage is at 52.7 percent going into the Final Four, and he shoots 41.4 percent from three-point range. On the season, Brunson had 176 assists against only 67 turnovers, and he has scored in double-figures in every game for a team that never left the top-five of the national rankings.
Brunson was the Big East Player of the Year, becoming the third Villanova guard in the last five seasons to win the award, and has his team on the cusp of a second national championship in three seasons. He is the first Villanova player to score 700 or more points in a season (729) since Kerry Kittles in the 1994-95 season.
He was a freshman starter on Villanova’s 2016 national title team, averaging 9.6 points, and the former McDonald’s All-American out of Adlai Stevenson High School has built a tremendous career since. Brunson is fresh off being named the 2018 NCAA East Regional’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in wins over Radford, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas Tech that earned the Wildcats a berth in the Final Four.
Against Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, Brunson scored a team-high 15 points to go with four assists. He scored 27 points playing against former AAU teammate Jevon Carter in Villanova’s 90-78 win over West Virginia in their Sweet 16 matchup.
Brunson was also the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) named Brunson as a second-team Academic All-American. Brunson carries a 3.34 grade-point average as a communications major.
Brunson is the second USBWA national player of the year from a Big East Conference school in the past five years (Doug McDermott of Creighton won in the 2013-14 season), but only the fourth overall. Chris Mullin and Walter Berry, both of St. John’s, earned USBWA honors in back-to-back seasons in 1984-85 and 1985-86.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy is voted on by the entire membership of the association, which consists of more than 900 journalists. It is the nation’s oldest award and the only one named after a former player. The legendary Oscar Robertson was the USBWA’s first player of the year in 1959 and was the consensus national player of the year as a sophomore in 1958, the year before USBWA started giving its player of the year award. The USBWA renamed the award the Oscar Robertson Trophy in 1998.
All-Time USBWA National Players of the Year:
2018 Jalen Brunson, Villanova
2017 Frank Mason III, Kansas
2016 Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
2015 Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
2014 Doug McDermott, Creighton
2013 Trey Burke, Michigan
2012 Anthony Davis, Kentucky
2011 Jimmer Fredette, BYU
2010 Evan Turner, Ohio State
2009 Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
2008 Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
2007 Kevin Durant, Texas
2006 Tie Adam Morrison, Gonzaga; J.J. Redick, Duke
2005 Andrew Bogut, Utah
2004 Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s
2003 David West, Xavier
2002 Jay Williams, Duke
2001 Shane Battier, Duke
2000 Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati
1999 Elton Brand, Duke
1998 Antawn Jamison, North Carolina
1997 Tim Duncan, Wake Forest
1996 Marcus Camby, Massachusetts
1995 Ed O’Bannon, UCLA
1994 Glenn Robinson, Purdue
1993 Calbert Cheaney, Indiana
1992 Christian Laettner, Duke
1991 Larry Johnson, UNLV
1990 Lionel Simmons, La Salle
1989 Danny Ferry, Duke
1988 Hersey Hawkins, Bradley
1987 David Robinson, Navy
1986 Walter Berry, St. John’s
1985 Chris Mullin, St. John’s
1984 Michael Jordan, North Carolina
1983 Ralph Sampson, Virginia
1982 Ralph Sampson, Virginia
1981 Ralph Sampson, Virginia
1980 Mark Aguirre, DePaul
1979 Larry Bird, Indiana State
1978 Phil Ford, North Carolina
1977 Marques Johnson, UCLA
1976 Adrian Dantley, Notre Dame
1975 David Thompson, N.C. State
1974 Bill Walton, UCLA
1973 Bill Walton, UCLA
1972 Bill Walton, UCLA
1971 Sidney Wicks, UCLA
1970 Pete Maravich, LSU
1969 Pete Maravich, LSU
1968 Lew Alcindor, UCLA
1967 Lew Alcindor, UCLA
1966 Cazzie Russell, Michigan
1965 Bill Bradley, Princeton
1964 Walt Hazzard, UCLA
1963 Art Heyman, Duke
1962 Jerry Lucas, Ohio State
1961 Jerry Lucas, Ohio State
1960 Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati
1959 Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati
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