It’s not Obama playing for the Lakers, but maybe the next best thing

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Paul Wellman/The Santa Barbara Independent
Senator Tony Strickland (in white) and goes up against Santa Barbara radio DJ Adam Lundquist in a one-on-one battle last month.

Tony Strickland once scored 47 points in a game when he was at Whitter College in 1992, a 6-foot-5 power forward who threw his weight around and had a good quick first step to go along with a nice outside jumper.

Then his career went another way.

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He’s now Califoria State Senator Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks), serving the 19th district and assistant minority leader. But he’ll make his pro basketball debut. Finally.

The Los Angeles Lightning of the International Basketball League (linked here) has Strickland on the roster for Saturday’s game at Gilbert Sports Arena on the Cal Lutheran campus for their 7 p.m. game against the Edmonton Energy. It’s the first two home games of the season for the Lightning, in their second year of existence.

On Strickland’s official website (linked here) there is plenty about his being vice president of GreenWave Energy Solutions LLC, which is trying to harness ocean water as a natural way to power the planet. This co-autored Senate Bill 619, which provides support for funding Santa Barbara County’s Lower Mission Creek flood control project, is rolling through the process. And his other endeavors in trying to find funding for vital programs like healthcare, education, and transportation by creating jobs.

But there’s nothing about his basketball ability.

The 39-year-old played at Whitter from 1990-92, averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds in two seasons. In his final home game with the Poets, he poured in 47 points and set a school record with 22 field goals.

Lightning owner Mark Harwell, a friend of Strickland, said he invited the legislator to play because of his ability, not as a publicity stunt.

“Tony’s a great athlete and will surprise a lot of people,” said Harwell. “He can still play and he can dunk. If this was a publicity stunt, we would have signed a 5-7 bald guy with a pot belly.”

Strickland says of his game: “I’m strong fundamentally and I just like to win. I’m very competitive. … I’m living a dream. I’m really excited and this a great opportunity to play with great basketball players who played in the NBA.”

The Lightning roster includes former NBA and college players such as Toby Bailey, Byron Russell and Lamond Murray.

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The Sacramento Bee

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