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From Seals to Owens to XU -- a special gift for new arena

keesto | 2/22/2013, 6:57 p.m.
Competent basketball statisticians never award two assists for one field goal. But Saturday's Crosstown Classic...
From Seals to Owens to XU — a special gift for new arena

Competent basketball statisticians never award two assists for one field goal. But Saturday's Crosstown Classic at Xavier University of Louisiana's new Convocation Center will feature a two-assist transaction.

A warmup top, worn by XU standout Bruce Seals during his time with the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, will be presented to XU's athletics department for permanent display in the new facility, which seats nearly 4,000. The presentation will occur during the men's game between Xavier and Dillard, which will tip off at 5 p.m. The XU and Dillard women's teams will meet at 3 p.m.

Seals autographed the Sonics warmup and gave it to longtime friend and classmate Ronnie Owens during the 1980s. The gift was not a special occasion, Seals said, but Owens eventually had special plans in mind.

"I had thought about donating the warmup to the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame in Baton Rouge, where Bruce is a member," said Owens, who met Seals in ninth grade at Booker T. Washington High School and also was an XU classmate. "But when the Convocation Center opened, I knew this was the right place for it."

XU athletics director Dennis Cousin agreed, had the warmup top framed and scheduled a formal presentation during Saturday's doubleheader, which also will include Senior Day ceremonies for SiMon Franklin of the Gold Nuggets and Denzell Erves, Keenan Gay, Nick Haywood, Wanto Joseph, Anthony Simmons and Renard Smith of the Gold Rush. Owens did not tell Seals of the plans until January "because I wanted to surprise him. But when I told him, he was good with it."

Seals arrived in New Orleans from his home in the Boston suburbs on Wednesday with his son, Bruce Jr., and his daughter, Denitra. On Thursday they took a campus tour which not only included the Convocation Center but also two more recent additions to XU's expanding landscape: the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel and the Convocation Center Annex.

When the tour reached the Convocation Center, the reaction of Seals was similar to others who have visited since its opening in early November. "Wow," he said. "This is a beautiful place."

Before November, Seals and hundreds of other XU student-athletes developed their games at The Barn, a 1,300-seat gymnasium which opened in 1937 and had legendary status by the time Seals played his first XU home game in the fall of 1971. Seals, a 6-foot-8 forward, contributed to legend of The Barn and became one himself. He averaged 22.2 points and 13 rebounds during his two seasons, helping the Gold Rush win back-to-back NAIA District 30 championships and qualify both years for the NAIA National Championship. In the second round of the '73 national tournament, Seals had 32 points, 10 rebounds and 12 blocked shots in a 67-60 upset of top-seeded and unbeaten Sam Houston State.

Seals then played five seasons of U.S. professional basketball -- two with the Utah Stars of the ABA and three with Seattle -- then played a few more seasons in Europe before retiring. He is an assistant men's basketball coach at NCAA Division III's Emmanuel College in Boston and a longtime athletics director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester, Mass.