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SPORTS DIGEST: Westbrook contributes to new UCLA basketball facility

LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook is one of the top players in the National Basketball League.

The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard is a four-time NBA all star and teams with Kevin Durant to form one of the best one-two combinations in the league.

This week, UCLA announced that Westbrook had made a “significant” donation toward the construction of the Bruins’ planned basketball training facility and will have the men’s basketball practice court named in his honor.

Although the amount of the donation was not released, UCLA officials called it the largest contribution by a former basketball player in the university’s history.

Now in his eighth NBA season with the Thunder, Westbrook played two years at UCLA, helping take the Bruins to the NCAA Final Four in 2007 and 2008.

“Russell isn’t merely a dominant force in the NBA, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the community as well,” UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said. “While his ‘Why Not?’ Foundation’s mission is to inspire the lives of children and teach them to never give up, the fact of the matter is, having witnessed firsthand and from afar his growth over the years, Russell himself is an inspiration.”

Westbrook’s donation will go toward construction of the Mo Ostin Basketball Center training facility, named in honor of music industry executive Morris “Mo” Ostin, who donated $10 million to the project. Including his gift and Westbrook’s donation, more than $17 million has been raised toward the project, according to UCLA.

In recognition of his gift, the men’s basketball practice court at the facility will be named “Russell Westbrook Court.” Westbrook will be honored at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 7, when the Bruins play host to the Arizona Wildcats.

“I loved my time at UCLA and jumped at the opportunity to give back to the university that provided me with amazing opportunities and great memories,” Westbrook said. “I am truly honored to be part of the legacy that is Bruin basketball.”

Westbrook played his high school ball at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale. It’s nice to see an NBA superstar who remembers where he came from.

Serena Williams was selected the Sportsperson of the Year for 2015 by Sports Illustrated this week. Williams lost three tennis matches all year and won three of the four tennis majors. (CNN photo)
Serena Williams was selected the Sportsperson of the Year for 2015 by Sports Illustrated this week. Williams lost three tennis matches all year and won three of the four tennis majors. (CNN photo)

A GREAT CHOICE: Sports Illustrated started a small controversy this week when it named tennis great Serena Williams as its Sportsperson of the Year.

Williams became the first black woman to win the award and only the third women to win in the 61 years Sports Illustrated has been handing out the award.

Apparently Williams still offends some people, because a loud clamor arose over her selection. Many people took to social media complaining that American Pharoah, the first horse to win racing’s Triple Crown in 37 years should have got the award, but Williams had a tremendous year.

She lost three tennis matches in all of 2015.

One of those losses, in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, cost Williams a chance to win tennis’ grand slam — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in a calendar year. Williams did win four consecutive grand slam tournaments dating back to her U.S. Open title in September 2014 before losing at this year’s open.

At 34, she is the top women’s player in tennis and there doesn’t appear to be anyone on the scene ready to take that crown from her anytime soon.

UCLA wide receiver Devin Fuller has committed to play in the 2016 NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl, to be held Jan. 23 at the StubHub Center in Carson. The all-star game features college seniors being coached by former NFL coaches Mike Holmgren and Mike Martz. (Courtesy photo)
UCLA wide receiver Devin Fuller has committed to play in the 2016 NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl, to be held Jan. 23 at the StubHub Center in Carson. The all-star game features college seniors being coached by former NFL coaches Mike Holmgren and Mike Martz. (Courtesy photo)

BOWLING IN CARSON: The city of Carson is still waiting on the National Football league to determine whether it will become the host city for an NFL team or two, but the city will be hosting future NFL players Jan. 23 when the fifth annual NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl is played at the Stub Hub Center.

The game pits some of the top graduating college seniors from around the country competing in an all star game in front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams. For most players, it will be their final chance to make an impression before the NFL Combine.

Two players from USC and UCLA have committed to play in the game so far.

Cornerback Kevon Seymour and running back Tre Madden will represent USC and wide receiver Devin Fuller and linebacker Aaron Wallace will represent UCLA.

Other players who have committed to the game include Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, a San Clemente High graduate, and Northwestern State quarterback Stephen Rivers, a brother of San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

The teams will be coached by Mike Holmgren, who coached the Green Bay Packers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI in 1997, and former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz.

In the week leading up to the game, the players attend presentations from current and former players, union officials and others on topics including life skills, money management, the business of football, media and personal security, according to George Atallah, the assistant executive director of external affairs of the union representing the league’s players.

Darnell Taylor
Darnell Taylor

CRENSHAW GRAD SHINES: Cal State San Marcos senior Darnell Taylor, who played high school basketball at Crenshaw High School, was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 30-Dec. 6.

Taylor led San Marcos, which was selected to finish fifth in the final CCAA standings, to wins over Humboldt State and Sonoma State to open 2015-16 conference play.

The 6-4 senior guard averaged 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.5 steals on the weekend.

Against Humboldt State Dec. 3, San Marcos scored an 84-79 overtime victory. Taylor recorded 23 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. He made seven of 19 attempts from the floor and was solid from the free throw line, making nine-of-13 free throws.

On Dec. 5 against Sonoma State, Taylor shot 54.5 percent on six-for-11 shooting from the floor and was perfect from the free throw line for a total of 14 points. Taylor added five rebounds, five assists, and three steals to help San Marcos to its 67-60 win over the Seawolves.

Taylor also was the San Marcos male student athlete of the month for November.

He transferred from San Marcos from Fresno State, where he averaged 2.4 points a game last season for the Bulldogs.

The Wave’s 2011 player of the year while at Crenshaw, he attended Saddleback College for two years after graduating from Crenshaw.

Taylor’s coach at San Marcos is Jim Saia, a former assistant coach at both USC and UCLA.

STATE WRESTLING: The East Los Angeles College wrestling team placed 17th at the California Community College Athletic Association Wrestling State Championships Dec. 11 and 12 at Fresno City College.

ELAC freshman Ned Estrada, a South Pasadena High School product, took sixth place in the 197-pound weight class. In what was the highest scoring match in the state finals, Estrada, the 11th seed, opened with a 17-16 decision win against seventh seed Coleman Maher of Skyline College.

After a loss by fall to third place winner Jose Robledo of Bakersfield College, Estrada overpowered No. 6 Raul Briseno of Palomar College with an 11-5 upset decision win in the third round of the consolation bracket.

Sophomore Juan Soto won the seventh place match and Johnny Robles was eliminated in the second round of the consolation bracket of the 133-pound weight class. Both are from Downey High School.

Soto, the 12th seed, stunned fourth seed Joel Villa of Cerritos College by fall (1:27) in the third round of the consolation bracket. But he lost a major decision to the eventual third-place winner Alex Gallo of Palomar.

Soto won his last match as a Husky by fall (1:57) against the 11th seed in the seventh place match.

Robles ended his two-year ELAC career in the state finals after taking fifth place at the Southern Regionals, where  he scored a 9-7 decision against Preston Gannon of Rio Hondo College.

Sacramento City College won its second state title in three years. Fresno placed second and Cerritos College, the defending state champion, was third.

YOUTH BASEBALL CAMP: The Pioneer High School baseball team will offer a baseball experience to youngsters ages 7 to 13 at the Pioneer Titan Youth Baseball Camp Dec. 21-23

The three-day camp will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pioneer Titan Baseball Field, 10800 Benavon St., Whittier.

Cost is $75 per child. Signups will be held the day of the camp.

The camp is run by Pioneer baseball coach Bobby Ramirez, a former coach at San Pedro High, who was the 2012 South Bay Daily Breeze Coach of the Year, and his staff, along with college and Pioneer varsity baseball players. They will teach campers the finer points of the game with an emphasis on offensive and defensive skills.

Information: Ramirez at (951) 751-0080 or coach John Gandara at (626) 824-4285.