You could say that basketball is in Angelei Aguirre’s blood.
Daughter of NBA legend Mark Aguirre, it seems as if Angelei was destined to be a basketball player. Mark was in between NBA titles when Angelei was born in September 1990. He retired when she was just four years old, but later became a coach and therefore, she grew up around the game.
But like most kids, Angelei was involved with multiple sports and activities.
“He really didn’t push me to play basketball growing up,” Angelei said. “He just wanted me to do something that I really loved to do. Whether that was basketball or something else, he was really supportive.”
Eventually, Angelei did turn to basketball and when she did, her dad was there.
“He’d take me to work out all the time or we’d talk after games about what I could’ve done better — the typical coach because he was coaching most of the time while I was playing basketball,” Angelei said.
Through it all, though, it wasn’t Dad that she inspired to be, instead wanting to be her own player. And that she certainly is. At first glance at their personas on the court, it’s impossible to tell that Angelei and Mark are related.
“Our games are totally different,” Mark said. “She’s more like my friend Magic (Johnson) than she is like me. “
Angelei is most known for her defense. At 5’11’’, the senior guard can provide a tall, long presence against a guard or can body up down low. She often has the responsibility of guarding the opponent’s best player.
With 0.7 blocks per game, Angelei is tied for first on the team. She also ranks third on the squad, and is the No. 1 guard in rebounding, averaging 3.8 per game.
“It’s just that blue-collar mentality,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “She has that god-given athletic ability, but also on most teams that she’s played on has been willing to take the back seat to do all the dirty things.”
Mark, on the other hand, was first and foremost a scorer. Over his 13-year career, Mark averaged 20.0 points per game and during the 1983-84 campaign, he averaged 29.5 points per game, second in the NBA. As the Dallas Mavericks’ main weapon, Mark was a physical player, earning a lot of his baskets in the paint.
“I don’t remember watching him play in person, but I’ve seen a lot of film,” Angelei said. “He was a great shooter. He was a bruiser; he was a banger. He knew how to use his body well to get his shot off over his bigger opponents.”
While Mark played the forward position, Angelei is an extremely versatile player, playing all positions for UCSB, from the point guard to the post.
“I think it goes back to winning,” Mark said. “If you want to win, you’ll do whatever it takes. That means being a good defender, being able to pass the ball and play any position a coach puts you in. She’s really worked at being a complete basketball player and that’s what came out is that she’s able to play all positions.”
According to Mark, this may be possible due to her high basketball IQ, which comes from the fact that Angelei has been around basketball for so long.
“After you see something so much, you have an early knowledge of it,” Mark said. “When you’re talking that kind of lingo, it rubs off on you.”
On offense, Angelei is a pass-first, score-second type of player; she averages 1.7 assists per game, which is third on the team.
“You can only be a passer if you’re a shooter because people can’t double off of you,” Mitchell said. “People know she can knock down that 15-foot shot. They know she’ll take it off the dribble, so that allows her to be a better passer.”
While very different from Mark, Angelei’s unselfish offensive mentality may stem from working out with her dad. If there was one piece of advice he wanted to give Angelei growing up, it was how to respect the game.
“When I say respect the game, it’s the fact that it’s more than about you,” Mark said. “You can’t say I want to play, but not be committed to being at practice, working hard, trying to be a teammate, trying to make yourself better and trying to make your teammates better.”
Described by both her dad and coach as the “ultimate teammate,” Angelei only scores when her team really needs her to, tallying 5.7 points per game, although she averages an impressive 46.6 percent from the field in conference play.
Angelei’s biggest scoring nights, in fact, have come when her team’s back is against the wall. For example, against USC, Angelei put the team on her back in the second half to get her team back in the game, scoring a career-high 13 points.
“I do what I need to do for the team to win,” Angelei said. “I try to let the game come to me and take what the defense will give me. If I have an open shot, I’ll take it, but I don’t go out of my way.”
Yet, despite how quickly Angelei and Mark are to say how little they have in common as players, it’s hard not to notice a few similarities.
For one, Angelei wears number 24 for UCSB, the same number her dad wore in college at DePaul and for Dallas.
In addition, both have proven they can win. Mark has a couple titles to his name, winning back-to-back NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons.
Angelei has also won several championships, the most recent coming last year when UCSB earned its Big West Tournament Championship crown. In fact, Angelei was one of the main players Mitchell credited as playing a major role in the victory. In the championship, Angelei recorded what, at the time, was her career-high with nine points and tied her career-high in rebounds with seven.
“She was just coming back (from an injury) and working her way back into shape,” Mitchell said. “We were able to utilize her at that four spot, which opened it up for Tilleman and Sweets on the inside.”
Throughout her career, Angelei has proven she can win at every level. In high school, she led her team to four straight Section 1-AA championships. As a Gaucho, along with last year’s tournament championship crown, Santa Barbara won the Big West regular season title in 2010-11 in Angelei’s first season in a UCSB uniform.
“She’s always won, no matter what team she’s been on,” Mark said. “She’s what basketball should be. You go out there with four other people and you’re trying to win the game. That’s the way she plays.”