Russell Shows Commitment and Exceptional Effort in Last Game for Willamette

Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy)
Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Hayden Russell (Sr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) of the Willamette University men's basketball team completed his career with stellar play in the Bearcats' final three games of the season. In those games, he led the Bearcats with 14.7 points per game, while shooting 48.1% from the field, converting 47.4% on 3-pointers and hitting 81.8% at the free throw line.

Russell completed his Willamette career with 99 games played over four seasons, as he played in all but two games, both during his freshman season. This year, he averaged 8.8 points per game. He scored 498 career points and recorded 94 career 3-point baskets, including 37 three-pointers as a senior.

He ended his senior season with a flourish by tying his career high with 22 points against Linfield College on Saturday, Feb. 18. Against the Wildcats, Russell sank 6 of 12 field goals, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. He was 5 for 5 on free throws.

It was a tough game for the Bearcats, who fell behind 34-9 with 5:28 left in the first half. Just seven seconds later, Russell scored on a pair of free throws. The two free throws started a 14-4 run by the Bearcats to reduce the margin at halftime. During the run, Russell hit two 3-pointers and assisted on a 3-pointer by Nathan Sherfey (Jr., F, Chehalis, WA/W.F. West HS).

Russell's first 3-pointer seemed to pick up the entire Bearcat squad. He seemed to single-handedly get the WU offense into gear.

He was already playing with a lot of passion for the game, but he seemed to ramp up his commitment and effort in the second half, when he scored 14 of his 22 points.

Willamette trailed by 20 points with 8:48 left in the contest. Russell played with abandon over the next few minutes, doing his best to lead the team to a dramatic comeback. He scored 13 points the rest of the way, including two 3-point baskets.

"We ask our guys to be very cognizant of the legacy they want to leave behind when their playing career is over ... And certainly that fire Hayden played with Saturday is a legacy-defining performance," Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane said.

The Bearcats got as close as 69-58 with two minutes to go, but couldn't catch the Wildcats, who won 75-63.

Johnny Verduin (Sr., F, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) also provided exceptional play for the Bearcats. He scored all 10 of his points in the second half on 5-of-6 shooting.

When the Linfield game ended, Russell and Verduin were spent. It was an emotional finish to their careers.

"Despite the loss, I was very happy for Hayden and Johnny that they could walk off the floor for the last time knowing they not only competed to the end, but did so with great performances as well," Ioane said.