UCLA Athletics - 2014 Dribble for the Cure with the UCLA Men's and Women's Basketball teams, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA October 26th, 2014 Copyright Don Liebig/ASUCLA 141026ODftC_0759.NEF

This Sunday, Oct. 11, UCLA is hosting the eighth annual “Dribble for the Cure,” to raise money and awareness in the battle against pediatric cancer. It’s both an incredibly worthwhile charity and a fun-filled morning, especially for kids. They get to dribble a basketball over a winding 1.2 miles of UCLA’s campus. Plus, they meet and get autographs and photos with the Bruin men’s and women’s basketball teams and their coaches (I wonder if I’m too old?)

Of course, any time “UCLA” and “basketball” appear in the same sentence, I always think of John Wooden. His teams won an unbelievable 10 NCAA championships from 1964-1975. (And seven straight from 1967-1973!)

From the early 60’s to the early 70’s, Wooden and his family lived in Santa Monica on 14th Street and attended the First Christian Church on Arizona. And for a few years, Wooden worked the off-season for Edgemar Farms on Main Street in Ocean Park.

Even though it’s been five years since Wooden passed away, his presence will be felt in Sunday’s fun and philanthropy. One reason is the driving force behind Dribble for the Cure, UCLA Basketball Hall of Famer John Vallely, who was the starting guard on Wooden’s 1969 and 1970 teams.

In fact, on the evening of March 20, 1969, I was wearing a hole in my carpet pacing back and forth as I watched UCLA in their NCAA semi-finals game against Drake. Things were looking bleak. Very bleak. But then Vallely, nicknamed “Money Man” for his deadly shooting eye, came through with 29 points, thus saving the day in the Bruins 85-82 victory. (And my emotional well-being, not to mention my carpet.)

The win put the Bruins in the NCAA title game where they defeated Purdue (Wooden’s Alma mater) 92-72 and became the first team in college history to win three consecutive national crowns.

Even though it’s been a mere 46 years since the Drake game, I kinda still owe Vallely and that’s another reason I’m insisting you attend Dribble for the Cure!

The truth, of course, is with all his success and fame, coach Wooden didn’t seek the limelight or even championships necessarily. In an excellent book I reviewed in the Daily Press, “In the Shadow of a Legend,” about Bruin assistant coach Jerry Norman, it was noted that Wooden worried winning the ’64 NCAA title, “Could be the worst thing to ever happen to us.”

More than championships, Wooden stressed preparation, doing your best and developing strong character. This was most notably revealed in Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success.” And, speaking of character, that brings me back to Vallely and the origin of the Dribble for the Cure charity.

For many years, John and his family have been on the front line in the battle against cancer. In 2004, John was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In 2006, he received an unrelated donor transplant and thankfully has been cancer free since. In 1991, John and Karen Vallely lost their daughter, Erin, to cancer at age 12. Eight years ago he brought Dribble for the Cure to UCLA, who gladly agreed to host, and each year has been more successful than the last.

Proceeds from Sunday’s event will help support the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation and the Cancer Research Program at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA on the Bruin campus. In the past seven years over 4,575 participants have contributed close to $1 million in the fight against children’s cancer. With your help, this year will easily break the $1 million mark!

Another “Wooden connection,” is that, as in previous years, a major sponsor for UCLA’s Dribble for the Cure will be Polly’s Pies Restaurants owned by Eddie Sheldrake. Eddie was on coach Wooden’s first three Bruin men’s basketball teams (1949-51) and in 2000, was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame.

As coach Wooden hailed from Indiana, so does Steve Alford. In his third year as the Bruins head coach, Alford’s teams reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen each previous year. This is Alford’s third Dribble for the Cure!

Alford, and UCLA women’s basketball coach, Cori Close, and their respective teams, will participate in Dribble for the Cure. Registration begins Sunday at 8:30 a.m. at Ducky Drake Stadium. Activity booths and entertainment will highlight a 10:00 a.m. welcome ceremony. So be there! As John Wooden wisely said, “Nothing can give you greater joy than doing something for another.”

For more info, Google “2015 UCLA Dribble for the Cure” and Google “YouTube John Vallely Dribble for the Cure.”

Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and jnsmdp@aol.com.

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