A soon-to-be James Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Famer was at Santa Barbara High on Friday. And he is one of the Dons’ very own.
Jamaal Wilkes joined fellow Dons basketball legends Don Ford, Victor Bartolome, Holly Ford Emerson and Jack Trigueiro in JR Richards Gymnasium to commemorate a fundraising campaign underway that will enable the school to completely renovate the aging gym.
It is a joint project between the Santa Barbara High Education Foundation and the Unified School District. The plans call for a handful of upgrades to an athletic facility that has many of the same features as it did when it was built in the 1950s.
“This brings back a lot of memories. Yea, it does. It hasn’t changed at all,” Wilkes said after briefly addressing the current Dons players.
Wilkes starred at Santa Barbara High alongside Ford in the late 1960’s before playing for John Wooden at UCLA. Wilkes continued on to have a decorated NBA career, which included three all-star appearances and four NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors. He won two NCAA titles at UCLA and was a part of UCLA’s storied 88-game winning streak.
Wilkes learned in April that he will be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in September.
“I’m definitely still reveling in it,” Wilkes said. “It’s a truly humbling honor, exciting, and exhausting too. I kind of have just gotten past the first wave of it. Now I’m ready for the second wave.”
Renovation plans include replacing the floor and ceiling, upgrading the lights with LED technology, repairing the windows for better natural light and ventilation, installing new scoreboards and sound system, plus new backboards and baskets.
“This project benefits every child at our school as well as our entire community,” said Santa Barbara High principal John Becchio. “It’s not just about athletics; It’s about all the kids who pass through here and learn valuable lessons about friendship and teamwork and integrity and commitment. It’s about helping our students become people like Jamaal Wilkes.”
The project is scheduled for the summer of 2013.
“I had a lot of great memories on and off the court going to school here and living here in Santa Barbara,” Wilkes said.