Before Tyler Trapani scored a fluke basket in the final minute of UCLA's 71--49 win over then No. 10 Arizona last Saturday, his stat line over three seasons as a Bruins walk-on consisted of two missed shots. "I hadn't done anything in a game that you would call a positive," he says.
His single score on Saturday—a right-place, right-time layup off a teammate's air ball—wouldn't have registered much except for the backstory: First, Trapani's basket was the last before historic Pauley Pavilion closes for renovation. Second, Trapani is the great-grandson of the late John Wooden, the legendary Bruins coach who died nine months ago. The arena that Wooden opened in 1965 was closed (temporarily) with a basket by the only member of his family to wear Bruins blue.
"When it went in I just thought, It's a layup, no big deal," says Trapani. "It wasn't until after, when people told me, that I realized how cool it was. It was like a fairy tale."
UCLA coach Ben Howland was twice brought to tears after the game as he talked about the significance of Trapani's basket. "I was thinking about Coach [Wooden]," Howland said. "We were trying to get [Tyler] the ball. [It] fell right into his hands. Something's going on there. I really believe that."
Trapani was uncomfortable talking about the basket lest it divert attention from the Bruins' victory. UCLA (21--8) started this season slow (losses to VCU and Montana) but has won eight of its last nine and is tied with Arizona atop the Pac-10. "Most of all I am just happy we won," Trapani says.
A junior history major with a minor in education, Trapani says that he wants to coach. But, like Wooden, he asks that you describe his chosen profession with care. "I'm not going to be a coach," he says. "Like my [great-] grandfather would say, 'I'm going to be an educator, a teacher of the game of basketball.'"