Curt Pickering and the Santa Barbara Breakers are determined to keep their hoop dreams alive in defiance of daunting realities. Last week, they moved from the SBCC Sports Pavilion, their home for the last two-and-a-half seasons, to the more intimate Thunderhut at San Marcos High School.
That may be taken as a sign of trouble-indeed, the Breakers’ attendance and gate receipts have fallen short of expectations-but it is not at all comparable to the dismal failure of 1990’s Santa Barbara Islanders. That debt-riddled club was evicted from SBCC and ingloriously concluded its one and only season in Ventura.
The Breakers paid all their rent up front and are leaving SBCC on good terms, the college’s athletic director Mike Warren affirmed. “There are no hard feelings,” Warren said. “I admire them for their love of the game, but we can’t give them a break from our business arrangement.”
Pickering, the Breakers’ president and coach, said San Marcos is substantially more affordable. He also put a positive spin on the move: If only a couple hundred spectators are going to show up, why not bring them closer to the action?
There is plenty of action in the West Coast Pro Basketball League. The Breakers outscored the Ventura County Jets, 112-91, in last Saturday’s game. On the road earlier in the week, they blasted the Hollywood Jammers, 164-129. This Saturday (May 30, 7:05pm), they will host the Jammers.
Pickering has come to realize that springtime basketball is a tough sell in Santa Barbara. “We’ve got competition from the weather and the beach,” he said. In addition, there was the disruption of the Jesusita Fire this year, and for basketball fans, there is the attraction of some compelling NBA playoff games on the tube. “It hurts us if the Lakers play on our game nights,” Pickering said.
The Lakers and Breakers have something in common: Their fans have reason to wonder, “Which team will show up?” In the latter case, it’s the changing roster of players, not the effort they put forth. Hometown mainstays Josh Merrill (UCSB) and Santiago Aguirre (Santa Barbara High/Westmont) are usually on the floor, along with fast-breaking veteran guards Tim Taylor and Mark Peters. Former Lompoc High star Joel Smith, the county’s prep player of the year in 2002, made his debut last Saturday and scored 19 points, including a trio of three-pointers and three thunderous dunks. The 6’6″ Smith played college ball at Washington and Chaminade in Hawai’i.
The Breakers are 9-2 in the six-team league and are expected to host the league championships on June 13-14.
Meanwhile, a semipro baseball club that is a model of steadfastness will soon open its 19th consecutive season in Santa Barbara. The Foresters, two-time champions of the National Baseball Congress (2006 and 2008), will hold an open house at UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on Friday, June 5, beginning at 1 p.m., a day before their opening game. They are offering free family season passes to victims of the Tea Fire and Jesusita Fire. Pick them up at the PRstore (3609 State St.).
BASEBALL BITS: Santa Barbara High upset Arcadia on the road last week to join Dos Pueblos in the second round of the CIF Division II playoffs. : UCSB‘s up-and-down season came to a conclusion last weekend. The Gauchos (29-23) had to face top-ranked UC Irvine without ace pitcher Joe Gardner (strained right oblique) but managed to win the middle game of their series, 8-2, with six solo home runs. A prelude to the series opener highlighted another side of UCSB: the chemical engineering department’s Diabetes Research Team, which is working on an artificial pancreas in conjunction with the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute. Gaucho catcher Doug Hansen, who has Type I diabetes, received a ceremonial first pitch from five-year-old Kyle DeSchryver, another Type I trooper.
KEEPING TRACK: Dos Pueblos High sophomore Nicholas Scarvelis is the lone area athlete to remain in contention for the State Track and Field Championships. He threw the discus 168’9″ for third place in the Southern Section Division II Finals, and he was the fifth best thrower in all divisions. The DP boys 4×400 relay team won the division title in 3:19.98, but it was a half-second too slow for advancement to the state qualifying meet. Steven Scarvelis came even closer in the 300-meter hurdles. The senior’s third-place time of 38.74 missed the cut by a mere 2/100ths of a second.
MAYOR’S GOT GAME: Westmont College has landed Kevin Johnson, three-time NBA All-Star and mayor of Sacramento, to be the featured speaker at a fundraising banquet on Sunday night (May 31) at the DoubleTree. Call 565-6107 for reservations.