January 4, 2012
San Jose State to hold Darnell Hillman jersey retirement

Former Hiram Johnson basketball star Darnell Hillman, a member of the San Jose State University Sports Hall of Fame and the university's first player to be chosen in the first round of a National Basketball Association player draft, will have his Spartan playing jersey No. 45 retired during a Feb. 4 halftime ceremony of the San Jose State-Hawaii men's game.

The 6-foot-9 Hillman played 10 seasons as a pro in the NBA and the American Basketball Association.

Hillman played on one of San Jose State's best teams in 1968-69 when the Spartans went 16-8 and beat then No. 2 nationally ranked Santa Clara 73-69 in overtime.

Hillman averaged 15.3 points and 14.2 rebounds as a first-team All-West Coast Athletic Conference selection for a San Jose State team that still holds the school's single-season scoring average at 82.4 points a game.

In the cross-hairs of the NBA and the ABA feud for the game's best talent, Hillman chose to begin his pro career with the ABA's Indiana Pacers over the NBA's Golden State Warriors that used the eighth overall selection in the 1971 league draft.

No other Spartan has been picked higher in an NBA draft than Hillman, according to San Jose State athletics media director Lawrence Fan.

Besides playing for the Pacers on two ABA championship teams, Hillman was a member of the New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets, Kansas City Kings and the Golden State Warriors.

Following the merger of the two leagues in 1976, Hillman would become an NBA Slam Dunk champion. He edged out Golden State's Larry McNeill for the 1977 crown during the league's championship series in Portland, Ore.

Overall, Hillman played in 682 regular season and 90 playoff pro games.

Besides starring in basketball at San Jose State, Hillman was one of the top high jumpers in school history. He jumped a San Jose State best of 6 feet, 11 1/2 inches as a freshman in 1968.

Presently, Hillman lives in the Indianapolis area and works for the Pacers.

The San Jose State festivities honoring Darnell Hillman begin with a Friday, Feb. 3 dinner celebration on the San Jose State campus. Reservations must be placed with Paula Minklein at paula.minklein@sjsu.edu or by calling (408) 924-1218. Cost of the dinner is $40 per person.

At halftime of the San Jose State-Hawaii men's basketball game, Hillman's No. 45 will become just the third Spartan jersey to be retired, joining the No. 34 of the late-Ricky Berry and No. 3 of Olivier Saint-Jean, now known as Tariq Abdul-Wahad.

Berry and Abdul-Wahad played for the Sacramento Kings.

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Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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