Senior Day: Saying Goodbye To Last Ben Ball Warriors & Honoring Our Past

Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

Setting aside all the cynicism around a certain senior from this year's class, tomorrow is going to be very a special day at Pauley. Saturday is going to be the last time Michael Roll and James Keefe will appear in the House that Coach Wooden built as members of the UCLA basketball program.

I don't need to go over and point at all the good memories from Roll and Keefe's four-five years in Westwood. We all know too well the kind of adversity both of them have dealt with at various points of their Bruin careers.   Both of them played their roles in the teams winning Pac-10 titles and making memorable runs to the Final-4.

Roll and Keefe are the last remaining members of our Classic Ben Ball warriors. What have been constant throughout their time in Westwood, are their unquestioned dedication, loyalty and commitment to those four letters in front of their uniform. These are two kids we can especially count on as being member of Bruin community for rest of their lives given the loyalty they have shown to our school during their time in Westwood.   

While the tip-off for the game is set up for 2 pm PST, the seniors (including Mustafa Abdul-Hamid and Spencer Soo) will get introduced at 1:50 pm (see Classof66's post on how we should honor our departing Bruins). Tomorrow should be special for another big reason. UCLA is going to honor the 1970 team during half time. More details on that below.

From the official site:

As John Wooden's UCLA men's basketball team entered the 1969-70 season, the Bruins had won a total of five NCAA Championships (1964-65-67-68-69) in the last six years (1964-69), including three in a row from 1967-69. During those three consecutive national title seasons, UCLA was led by some of the greatest players in college basketball history - center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor/1967-69), guards Michael Warren (1966-68) and Lucius Allen (1967-68), forward Lynn Shackelford (1967-69) and forward/guard Ken Heitz (1967-69).

But with three senior starters (Abdul-Jabbar, Shackelford, Heitz) gone from the 1969 NCAA Championship team, UCLA returned only two starters for the 1969-70 season - 6-2 1/2 senior guard and team captain John Vallely and 6-6 1/2 junior forward Curtis Rowe. Underclassmen would fill the other three starting positions to help lead the Bruins to their fourth consecutive NCAA Championship (1967-70) and sixth in the last seven years (1964-65-67-68-69-70) - 6-1 sophomore guard Henry Bibby, 6-9 junior center, the late Steve Patterson and 6-8 junior forward Sidney Wicks.

Read rest of the release for the full story on 1970 team here. BTW speaking of that 1970 team, in case you missed it this week, Wicks was inducted into National College Basketball HOF:

Wicks helped Coach John Wooden's UCLA Bruins to three straight NCAA championships from 1969-71. He was selected as the tournament's most outstanding player as a junior in 1970 and earned at least one national player of the year award in each of his last two seasons.

"I was very excited when I was informed of my selection," said Wicks, who will be in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday to be honored as part of the 1970 NCAA championship team. "I know this is something very special that doesn't happen to everyone and I am very honored. To be included in the Hall of Fame with all of these great coaches, players and contributors, especially Coach Wooden and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), really leaves me at a loss for words."

Wicks was one of those rare collegiate players who only experienced perfection. Wicks played on three of Coach John Wooden's UCLA teams and helped lead the Bruins to NCAA championships from 1969-71. The 6-8 power forward was the Bruins' leading scorer (18.6) and rebounder (11.9) as a junior when he was named Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA Final Four and earned national co-player of the year honors from the Helms Athletic Foundation. He earned player of the year awards from the USBWA and The Sporting News while again topping UCLA in scoring and rebounding as a senior. The second pick in the 1971 NBA draft by Portland, he played 10 seasons in the NBA and earned rookie of the year honors in 1972. He returned to UCLA as an assistant coach from 1984-88.

So there will be lot of reasons to celebrate tomorrow. While this year has not gone the way any of us ever imagined, I really hope our team comes out and play with the best effort of the season and gets energized by an emotional and inspired crowd at Pauley. 

GO BRUINS.

UPDATE (N): Well this is news to me. I was under the impression that since Mustafa Abdul-Hamid is a red shirt junior he would come back for at least another season. I was excited about having him back for at least another season to be a steady influence in the back court.  However, MAH is going to be graduating this June, so he is going to be honored with rest of the seniors tomorrow. Too bad (for us) but wonderful for Abdul-Hamid. He has been a great Bruin.

Also note, Spencer Soo is going to be honored tomorrow as well. I really really hope Ragovic is feeling better soon enough that he gets to play infront of his family as well and has that "once in a blue moon" kind of day. That would make it a perfect Senior Day. GO BRUINS.

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