December 16, 2008

Giving a court of thanks : UCSB basketball players give tickets to firefighters

Dec. 16, 2008

By ALEX PAVLOVIC
SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER

December 10, 2008

"We saw your job, come and see ours," Whitney Warren yelled as the firefighters from Station 12 hustled to respond to a medical call.

Warren, a senior guard for the UCSB women's basketball team, was one of four Gauchos to hand out tickets to emergency personnel on Tuesday, giving thanks in their way for their efforts in battling the Tea Fire.

"I used to actually want to be a firefighter, either a firefighter or a police officer, but my parents thought I should get into something else," Warren said. "Hopefully they'll come out to our games."

Warren was joined by teammate Lauren Pedersen, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and director of basketball operations Araceli Gil. Guard James Powell, forward Sam Phippen and assistant coach Jono Metzger-Jones represented the men's team.

The group started at Station 12 in Goleta, where they got a tour of the station and gave tickets, posters and T-shirts to Capt. Sid Porrazzo, engineer Jason Toole and firefighter Blake Herman. The event was cut short when the firefighters received a call.

From there, the players and coaches headed to Station 1 in Montecito, to meet the firefighters who were the first responders to the Tea Fire.

"People that serve the community are always so important, but it becomes more important when you have a tragedy like the Tea Fire. We wanted to take this opportunity to do what we can and give them some tickets, so I'm glad to be a part of it," Gottlieb said. "When something happens like the Tea Fire, I think everyone's first inclination is to say 'How can I help,' and obviously being part of the athletic department we feel like we can provide entertainment and maybe show them that we appreciate what they're doing."

The players gave out 100 tickets to Saturday's men's game against Loyola Marymount, and the women's game on Dec. 17 against Harvard. All emergency personnel who worked the Tea and Gap Fires can receive two tickets to each game by showing their emergency personnel identification at the Thunderdome beginning one hour before each game.

"We're really focused on winning basketball games and getting better, but there's always a bigger picture and a bigger focus, particularly with our program," Gottlieb said. "How involved we are with the community is one of the things that makes us unique. I love that aspect of coaching and we want to continue to get our players out in the community as much as we can."

The event was part of the UCSB athletic department's "Gauchos Give" program. Pedersen and Powell had never been to fire stations before, while Warren and Phippen said they had taken trips when they were younger.

The tickets are just one of the community outreach programs done by the basketball teams. Next week the teams will provide 50 area children $100 shopping sprees at M-Mart in Goleta as part of the "Holiday SWishes and Baskets of Fun" promotion. The children also will be given two tickets to the Jan. 2 women's game against Long Beach State and the Jan. 10 men's game against Cal State-Fullerton.

"These guys are heroes, they're out there saving lives and they put their lives on the line and their time on the line to help others, and that's really courageous," Powell said. "What we do is small. We just go out there and play a sport, we don't do anything but go out there and play five-on-five basketball while they're out there saving lives.

"What we do is nothing in comparison to what they do. Not at all."

email: apavlovic@newspress.com

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