Emilio Gonzalez (32) of the Santa Barbara Dons drives around Chadd Cosse of Flintridge Prep in the Holiday Classic championship game.
Paul Wellman

Baby, it’s been cold inside for some of our favorite basketball teams. UCSB’s women had difficulty just getting off shots against Kentucky, the nation’s No. 7–ranked team, in a 66-38 defeat. The Gaucho men scored 80 points against Wyoming’s unbeaten Cowboys — in two games — losing 68-40 at home and 56-40 at Laramie. Westmont College’s women missed 16 consecutive shots in a 62-29 plunge into ice water against Westminster of Utah.

Maybe the New Year will bring about a thaw. UCSB’s men take on two Big West rivals at the Thunderdome this week, UC Irvine on Thursday night, January 3, and Long Beach State on Saturday at 4 p.m. In their conference opener, the Gauchos came up short in an 86-79 shootout at Cal State Fullerton. Check out their sophomore center Alan “Big Al” Williams, who posted his sixth double-double (22 points and 16 rebounds).

For fast-paced action in front of frenzied fans, it’s hard to beat high school basketball. The San Marcos Royals play at Santa Barbara High on Friday night, January 4, in the first of three Channel League clashes between the two teams. The Royals already boast a victory over their rivals, having bested the Dons 60-54 in the championship game of Carpinteria’s Jim Bashore Cage Classic.

The Dons followed that setback with a strong performance in their own Holiday Classic, winning four straight games last week to claim the title. Emilio Gonzalez (22 points, 12 rebounds) was a triple threat in the final, a 60-47 victory over Flintridge Prep. The 6′4″ senior scored on power moves in the paint; on long-distance shots, including a 35-footer that gave the Dons a 32-29 halftime lead; and he dished out some snappy assists to forwards Jack Baker (13 points) and tournament MVP Jeff Paschke (14 points).

“In my 43 years of coaching, he’s one of the few players I’ve seen who can handle all five positions,” Santa Barbara coach David Bregante said of Gonzalez. “Point guard, shooting guard, center, anywhere — he’s got a great basketball IQ.” Gonzalez is working to attain a basketball body. He weighed 230 pounds as an impactful tight end on the football team. “He’s lost 15 pounds and is just starting to find his rhythm,” Bregante said.

“My New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier,” Gonzalez said. Another refinement he’s working on is controlling his emotions on the court. He was obviously unhappy with a foul call in Saturday’s game, but he walked away from the official while muttering to himself.

Hanging high on the wall in Santa Barbara’s J.R. Richards Gym is the retired No. 52 jersey of Jamaal Wilkes, a player whose cool demeanor should serve as a model. Wilkes, a 1970 graduate of the high school, wore No. 52 with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the team retired that jersey in a ceremony at halftime of the Lakers-Trail Blazers game at the Staples Center last Friday night. Gonzalez is rather more current when he names the player he’d most like to resemble: Blake Griffin of the L.A. Clippers.

Other prep basketball teams entering 2013 on a roll include the Dos Pueblos Chargers, who scored an early league victory at San Marcos, and the Bishop Diego Cardinals, who took the consolation title at Santa Barbara’s Holiday Classic with three straight wins after an opening loss to Troy, a school with 2,500 students.

DANNY’S KINGDOM: Danny Ramirez, the godfather of Santa Barbara’s barbers, died last month in Washington State, where he relocated a year ago after performing haircuts here for 60 years. “He kept coming around,” said Sam Huerta, who bought Ramirez’s shop in Loreto Plaza 12 years ago. “I had to lock him out. Finally, he got away with his wife.”

Ramirez attended Santa Barbara High but left early to enlist in the Navy during World War II. He started cutting hair in his hometown in 1952 and opened the present shop in 1960. In those years, the military style of haircut was in vogue. “He was the king of the flattop,” said Arturo Cordova, who worked at Danny’s for 15 years before opening his own shop. Ramirez was honored as a Santa Barbara Independent Local Hero in 1999.

Like many barbershops, Danny’s is a place where sports is a talking point. Ramirez was close to many athletes. Ernie Zampese, a football standout for the Dons, was one of his favorites. Zampese coached in the NFL, and he saw to it that Danny’s is decorated with helmets of the L.A. Rams and Dallas Cowboys. There also is a helmet that belonged to S.B. High grad Sam “Bam” Cunningham of the New England Patriots.

Danny left those mementos, along with the photos of many sports and entertainment luminaries, in the shop that still bears his name: Danny’s Custom Styling. He was 88 when he died of a fast-moving cancer. A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, January 9, at 2 p.m.


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