Santa Barbara Basketball Court of Champions Will Welcome 16 New Members

Saturday Ceremony is Open to the Public and Admission is Free

Santiago Aguirre (right), a center at Santa Barbara High and Westmont, played for the SB Breakers and in the Mexican Pro League. | Credit: Courtesy

Sixteen men and women who have been dedicated to basketball from the youth level to the pros will be inducted into the Santa Barbara Basketball Court of Champions on Saturday, August 20. The 4 p.m. ceremony at the Goleta Boys & Girls Club will be open to the public. Admission is free.

Ben Howland, who coached four different college teams into the NCAA tournament – including three consecutive Final Four appearances at UCLA – will be master of ceremonies. He and co-host Sal Rodriguez were inaugural members of the Court of Champions in 2014.

Unique among the new members is Sha’Rae Mitchell, a former UCSB player, who became the 15th woman to serve as an on-court NBA official when she was called up from the G-League this year.

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The other inductees are:

  • Three Goleta natives who became college coaches – Jay Hillock, a head coach at Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount, later a scout for the Chicago Bulls; his brother Joe Hillock, who worked on Howland’s staff at UCLA and coached a state prep championship team in Utah; and Larry Lessett, an assistant at SBCC and head coach at Maryland Eastern Shore.
  • Santiago Aguirre, a center at Santa Barbara High and Westmont, played for the SB Breakers and in the Mexican Pro League.
  • The father-son combo of Bernard and Jelani Hicks, directors of basketball programs at the SB Boys & Girls Club. Jelani was head coach at San Marcos High.
  • Others who worked at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Santa Barbara and Goleta: Bob Thompson and Dave Jackson, who were teammates on the legendary 1969-70 SB High team; and Kim Kjar.
  • James Coronado, head boys coach at Bishop Diego High and founder of the Franklin Eagles youth team.
  • George Albanez, director of 805 Basketball, and his daughter Keani, a Gonzaga player who coached on the SBCC men’s staff.
  • Program leaders David Palmer (Santa Barbara Vipers) and Kent Wojciechoski (Police Activities League).
  • Matt Sanchez, who guided at-risk youth away from the gang life that he once followed. He’ll be honored posthumously.

Upon the induction of the 2022 class, the Court of Champions will comprise 110 members.

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