Mark Eaton, who went from being a seldom-used reserve at Westminster High School and playing 196 minutes over two seasons at UCLA to an 11-season NBA career, was among the first-time nominees for the Basketball Hall of Fame announced Friday.
The 7-foot-4-inch Eaton was working at a tire store in Orange County when he was sighted by an assistant coach at Cypress College. Eaton played two seasons for the Chargers, then two for UCLA. Despite his limited playing time he was chosen by the Utah Jazz in the fourth round of the 1982 NBA draft, the 72nd overall selection.
Eaton spent his entire NBA career with the Jazz, leading the league in blocked shots four times and was twice selected as the Defensive Player of the Year.
Other first-time nominees announced Friday included Rick Adelman, a standout player at what is now known as Loyola Marymount University and the since-closed Pius X High in Downey who was an NBA coach for 23 seasons, and Jay Wright, who coached Villanova to NCAA championships in 2016 and 2018.
Repeat nominees with ties to Southern California include former UCLA players Marques Johnson, Henry Bibby and the late Willie Naulls, former USC guards Paul Westphal and Mack Calvin, retired Crenshaw High coach Willie West and former Buena Park Mayor Dennis Murphy, who helped found the American Basketball Association.
The finalists from the North American and Women’s committees will be announced Feb. 15 in connection with the NBA All-Star Game, which will be played in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 2018 Hall of Fame class will be announced at the men’s Final Four in Minneapolis.
The announcement of the nominees coincided with the “Birthday of Basketball,” the 127th anniversary of the first game played.
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