East County Sports

Bill Walton, 71, among East County’s best




By Nick Pellegrino
ECS Senior writer

LA MESA – The greatest student-athlete from his era in East County history, legendary Basketball Hall of Fame center Bill Walton passed on Memorial Day (May 29) of cancer.

William Theodore Walton III was 71.

The standout at Helix High despite suffering from life-long ankle problems, Walton was a chapion at every level.

After capturing a CIF championship with the Highanders, he helped UCLA contijue its streak of 12 NCAA crowns, then he grabbed a pair of NBA titles, one each with the Portland Trailblazers and the Boston Celtics.

Walton also overcam speech problems to became an popular color commentator for several networks.

Walton, right, playing for Portland

In fact, Walton became known as the “color” in color commentators, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who noted Walton’s “zest for life” and “his love of the game” in an NBA press release,

NBA stats HERE

Even after his playing career, Walton could be found at San Diego area gymnasiums participating in pick-up games, including a ;itt;e known league of former prominent players at the La Jolla Familyt YMCA.

“The big read-head,” the 6-foot-11 Walton qon NCAA title sin 1972 qnd 1973 with the Bruins, despite well-publicisted debates with head coach John Wooden, another member of the Hall of Fame. But Walton always followed Wooden’s directives.

At Helix, head coach Gordon Nash knew he needed to treat Walton with kit gloves due to ankle woes. But when he needed to showcase, his young standout, Waltron was ready.

As reported by Bill Center of the San Diego Union:

Participating at the Fillmore Tournament, Walton scored 50 points — an rare total during the era — which led to UCLA assistant coach Denny Crum to covertly inform Wooden that “I just saw the greatest high school playerI’ve ever seen.”

Wooden responded,”Keep your voice down and close the door.”

On Dec. 31, 1969, in the tournament final, Helix beat host Pasadena, 110-68. Walton not only scored his CIF-San Diego Section record 50 points, he also grabbed 34 rebounds.


Late in the season, Helix topped Mount Miguel, 127-31, then topped Santana to claim the Grossmont League title.

In the CIF playoffs, the Scotties — led by Walton — downed El Cajon Valley, Hilltop, Castle Park and Chula Vista to cap a perfect 33-0 campaign/


Walton always declared the Pacific 10 (later 12) Conference as the greatest in collegiate athletics — “the conference of champions.”

By sad coincidence, Walton passed on the very last weekend of Pac-12 action with the baseball tournament coming to a conclusion in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Sunday.

According to the NBA, Walton was surrounded by his family.

His son, Luke Walton, was a 10-year NBA veteran (2003-13),