With a résumé that includes playing for some of the biggest powerhouses in college basketball and the NBA—from the University of Michigan to the New York Knicks to the Los Angeles Lakers—Cazzie Russell has a proven track record. But at this year’s Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast, held annually during the NCAA Men’s Final Four weekend, Russell received the 2016 Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” award for more than just his playing skills. Established in 1998, the award is given to a current or past college or professional basketball player or coach who models the characteristics of UCLA men’s basketball legend, Coach John Wooden. The “Keys to Life” award was presented to Russell on the morning of the two national semifinal games at the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast hosted by Athletes in Action held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX on Saturday, April 2, 2016.
Russell joins an elite group of basketball greats who have received the honor, including Danny Miles, Homer Drew, Don Meyer and Del Harris. Since retiring as a basketball player, Russell has continued to influence people, having served as the head coach at Savannah College of Art and Design and currently serving as the assistant coach at Armstrong State University; he is also an associate pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia. Russell’s leadership and charisma resonates significantly with players, coaches and fans alike—evident when hearing the nickname of the University of Michigan’s arena: “The House that Cazzie Built.” His determination to continue contributing to the community through a number of different avenues showcases his leadership and character.
The Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast also included CBS College Basketball Analyst Clark Kellogg and Fox Sports Anchor Spencer Tillman as emcees, as well as a performance by award-winning Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman.
Athletes in Action is an organization founded in 1966 and now have 400 staff in the U.S. and have a presence in 70 countries around the world. AIA helps athletes grow in all ways to become a “Total Athlete”. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.