Santa Barbara’s rich basketball history will be well represented when the Court of Champions inducts its Class of 2018 at its fifth annual event later this spring.
The inductees include a pair of NBA players, a UCSB star and assistant coach, a Westmont College coach, and the owner of Santa Barbara’s entry in the old Continental Basketball Association.
RON ANDERSON – He played two seasons at SBCC, led Fresno State to an NIT championship, and averaged 10.6 points during an 11-year career (1984-1994) with five NBA teams – the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Washington Bullets.
Anderson continued playing professionally in France and Israel until 1999.
TOM BYRON – He served as Westmont College’s athletic director and men’s basketball coach from 1965 until 1972, and was also the Dean of Students, when he lost his battle with cancer at age 43. He was instrumental in the planning and construction of Westmont’s athletic buildings as well as Murchison Gym.
Byron’s team went 16-10 in 1968-69 and 17-10 the following season. His Warriors were having one of their best seasons in history in 1971-72 when he passed away. The night after his death, an emotional Westmont team posted the biggest upset in its history, rallying from a 16-point deficit to defeated No. 14 Hawaii 90-89, and that team continued on to the NAIA National Quarterfinals.
MORT HILL – He was the first Gaucho to play in what would become the NBA, competing for the St. Louis Blues from 1945-46 and the Syracuse Nationals in 1946-47. He also played for Worcester in the New England Basketball League through 1948.
Hill, who passed away in 1977, played at UCSB from 1939 to 1943. He helped the Gauchos advance to the semifinals of the NAIA Men’s National Basketball Tournament in 1941.
SHIRLEY OTTO – The former Hoosier and life-long basketball fan moved with her husband, Richard, to Montecito in 1964, just days before the devastating Coyote Fire. They provided financial support to local basketball endeavors at all levels – youth, high school, collegiate, and professional – while also donating to animal shelters, as well as to non-profit organizations for music and education.
When Shirley heard Laker announcer Chick Hearn mention that CBA franchises were available, she contacted the league as well as Lakers assistant coach Bill Bertka of Santa Barbara and, in May of 1989, purchased a club that would be known as the Santa Barbara Islanders.
The Islanders set a CBA record for most wins by an expansion team (37) and it averaged more points (123.7) than any other in league history.
DOUG REX – The UCSB Hall of Famer led the Gauchos in both scoring and rebounding for three straight years, earning team MVP honors each season, and was voted to the All-PCAA first team in both 1970 and 1971. He led UCSB to a 20-6 record during his season year of 1971, which still stands as a school record for winning percentage (.769).
Rex holds the school record for career rebound average (10.6 per game) and his career scoring average (18.4) ranks third all-time at UCSB.
He was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1971 and wound up serving as an assistant coach for UCSB head coach Ralph Barkey.