New Court of Champion Inductees

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By Curt Pickering

What a Wonderful Evening we all experienced last Saturday at the Goleta Boys and Girls Club. 

This was our 9th Annual Court of Champions Event. I have received so many comments on the quality of the individual's inducted last week. We were touched by the humility, humor, personal stories and the gratefulness that each of you, the inductee's expressed to the audience.

First, I would like to Thank the Master of Ceremony, and he certainly was, for this Event, Ben Howland. Ben delivered such eloquence and positivity to this evening and we, the Court of Champions Committee, are so grateful for his committed time and effort both preparing for and entertaining us during our 2 hour ceremony.

I would also like to Thank the Director of the Santa Barbara Boys and Girls Clubs, Michael Baker. Michael was so supportive of this Event from Day One, when I contacted him several months ago.

Kudo's also go to the Director of the Goleta Boys and Girls Club, Sean Savatt. Sean gave his valuable time helping prepare, execute the logistics during our event and assisting with the necessary closure required to conclude the evening.

During the ceremony, we listened to parallel's that were so impressionable:

1)  Bernard and Jelani Hicks sharing their community efforts in impacting the lives of youth here in Santa Barbar

2)  The dedication of David Palmer and Santiago Aguirre, who could not attend the ceremony, due to their coaching committment in tournaments, both in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, respectively.

3)  James Coronado and Kim Kjar sharing their early years of coaching, taking on schools, city regions and individual's, that were untapped in our city.

4)  Brothers, Joe and Jay Hillock sharing exciting basketball stories, yet, they ended their segments thanking and appreciating their wives, family members and each other.

5)  The contrasting reverence of Robert Thompson's life experiences and importance of family; which was countered by the high level humor of David Jackson and his true-to-life experiences both in Santa Barbara and now, Prescott, Arizona. David has been coined the Second Coming of Richard Pryor!

6)  George and Keani Albanez provided us in-depth intel about their basketball roots and the intense training they both experienced as a player and now pass on to the basketball player's they coach.

7)  Officer Wojo, as we like to call him, and Sha'Rae Mitchell gave us wonderful insight about experiences they have encountered in their professional occupations that bring much greater meaning to life, through the game of basketball. Wojo recognized and appreciated his quality upbringing and through his police duties, learned to better understand our youth that had abusive, single or no parental guidance. Thus, he founded the PAL Club to be that community support for such children. Sha'Rae enlightened us not only about the challenges of being a mother of two and juggling her career time management but also the disconnection that the game of basketball copes with between game officials and coaches on the sidelines. This provided a great point of reference for all of us to analyze, who truly love the game.

8)  Once again, Master Ben uniquely shared the life of deceased inductee Matt Sanchez as if he was present in our ceremony and then asked us all to pray in a moment of silence. That was very special. Ben then smoothed out the glitches of technical difficulties, giving time for Director Sean Savatt to correct inductee Larry Lessett's beautiful 4 minute video interview, captured from Larry's new home in Iowa.

Thank you's go out to our Committee Members Eric Burkhardt, John Zant, Mark French, Ron Mulder, Holly Ford Emmerson, Co-MC Sal Rodriguez, Tyler Geck, Photographer Priscilla, Linda Seals, Kevin O'connor, Deborah Savatt, Van Latham, Sharla Fell, Michael Salame, Mike Klan, Barry Punzal, The Voice and Events by Julissa.

It was truly a Beautiful Evening in Goleta and we Thank you All for being a Vital Player!

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