Pilots Who Made History
Hi, what are you looking for?
Pilots Who Made History
Retired SJND principal Anthony Aiello’s interest and involvement in athletics at the high school level began at the onset of his career in Catholic education. As a young child growing up in Pittsburg, Calif., Mr. Aiello played sports at St. Peter Martyr School, Pittsburg Boys Club, and thereafter at Pittsburg High School. After graduating from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, he was hired by the Marianists at St. Joseph High School in 1962 where he started off teaching social studies and coaching frosh basketball and varsity baseball. He became Principal of St. Joseph High School in 1970, which would merge with Notre Dame Academy in 1985 to become Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School. Mr. Aiello was a great supporter of athletics during his tenure at SJND, where he served as Principal until he retired in 2007. Mr. Aiello credits his colleagues and teachers who have taught during his time at SJND, stating, “There were many special people in my 44 years as principal of SJND. They continue to have a special place in my thoughts and heart. They were dedicated and compassionate in their ministry to the young men and women we taught.”
Ray Freitas – Francis Raymond ‘Ray’ Freitas was born in Watsonville, Calif., in 1940 and resided in Oakland most of his life. He began his coaching career at St. Jarlath in 1974, where he coached basketball and baseball and would coach there until 1987. He was also president of the Oakland CYO at the time and would hold that post for over 20 years. In 1981, he became an assistant baseball coach at St. Joseph High School. He became head coach in 1984. During his time at SJND, Freitas coached MLB player Joe Nelson, former NBA Star Jason Kidd and a slew of other talented baseball players. All of his players were important to him, no matter their skill level; he loved coaching and mentoring them. Coach Freitas passed away December 16, 2003 and is survived by his mom Gladys; brother David; wife Sandy; sons Ron, Gary and Rick; and grandchildren Sophie (SJND Class of 2018), Isabella (SJND Class of 2021), Kevin, Lauren, and Francis. His number still hangs on the right field wall at all Pilot home games.
A four-year starter on SJND Women’s Basketball team, Kate was part of the first SJND Women’s basketball team to qualify for the North Coast Section Playoffs and was also the first SJND Women’s Basketball player to earn a college scholarship to play D1 basketball at UC Riverside. Not only was Kate a four-year starter, she was captain and an All-League selection all four of her years at SJND. A tough, gritty point guard, Kate could do it all offensively and defensively, she even had the task of guarding the opposing team’s center when the situation called for it. Kate graduated from SJND as the Women’s Basketball career leader in points and assists. Longtime SJND faculty member and Girls Basketball Coach, the late Steve Arlett said he would do “everything in his power to make sure that nobody ever wore her number again.” Kate states, “I made some lifelong friends and a lot of memories along the way. I now live happily with my partner, Alysa and love life a lot!”
As the captain of the SJND Baseball, Men’s Basketball, and Men’s Soccer teams, Jon Gordon had the honor of playing for Hall of Fame coaches Ray Freitas and Frank LaPorte during his time at SJND. During his senior year, Jon played soccer and basketball during the same season. On “double header” game days he would play a soccer game in the afternoon and then change in the car on the way to the evening basketball game. The two-sports-in-one-season phenom received several All-League, All-Island, and All-Tournament selections, as well as Player of the Week honors. Colleges recruited Jon for all three sports and in the end, he chose St. Mary’s of Moraga as they offered him a soccer scholarship and an opportunity to play baseball. Naturally, he ended up playing basketball there too. Jon explains, “I sincerely believe that my time at SJND made me a better person. I made lifelong friends, learned lifelong lessons, and I am incredibly grateful and proud to have been able to call myself a Pilot.”
Peter “Pete” Lillevand starred on St. Joseph’s 70 lbs. CYO Basketball teams for several years before crossing the street and becoming a Pilot. Pete was Captain and Most Valuable Player in his senior year, during which he earned All-League honors in the Catholic Athletic League and All-East Bay team. He graduated #1 in his class and went on to Santa Clara University where he played basketball. During his junior year, Santa Clara reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships before losing to Defending National Champions UC Berkeley. After college, Pete served two years as an Officer in the US Army. He went on to receive his law degree from USF and in 1966, he joined the San Francisco law firm Orrick Herrington and Sutcliffe where he has practiced as a corporate lawyer for 52 years. Pete reflects on his time at St. Joe’s saying, “One thing is clear, St. Joseph’s Grammar School and St Joseph High School, in tandem with our parents, played a huge role in instilling in my brother Dave and myself the importance of education, character and the motivation to succeed. Many thanks for those gifts of the past…and a heartfelt thanks for the gift of my induction.”
Crystal Rizzuto was captain of the SJND Softball Team and named “Most Outstanding Player” all four years at SJND. As a freshman, she led ACCAL in batting average (.556), and repeated as a sophomore, with an average of .485. Crystal received many awards while at SJND, including three-time Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League All-Team selection and four-time Scholar Athlete award winner. Her senior year, she also won the Distinguished Athlete award. Crystal earned a Division 1 scholarship to Maryland where she was a two-time All ACC team selection and four-time Intercollegiate Athletics Scholar Athlete. Starting every game during her college career, Crystal held impressive stats which would lead to an offer to try out for the Washington Glory (National Pro Fastpitch Team) and the USA Junior Olympic Team, as well as an invitation to play internationally for the Italian National Team. “I sweat and bleed for this game, and in return it completes a part of me.” – Crystal’s 2001 yearbook quote.
Born is Holtville, Calif., in 1946, Eugene “Gene” Gaxiola Valenzuela grew up in Newark and attended Newark High School where he was three-sport athlete. After High School, Gene served our country for four years as a member of the United States Air Force. Gene got his start videotaping at SJND while he was filming a basketball game during the 1995 season for his son who was away in college. One day, Coach LaPorte sent over his assistant coach to ask Gene for a copy of the game, which would kickstart a longtime relationship between Gene and the SJND basketball program. Gene states, “Over the years, my wife and I have enjoyed coming to all the basketball games. I really appreciate all the families who have thanked me for taping the basketball games as keepsakes for their families. It’s also a joy getting asked by the kids who have graduated years ago for copies of their basketball games, so they can show their kids.”
Led by legendary SJND basketball coach the late Frank LaPorte, along with Gordie Johnson and Jose Caraballo, the ‘90-’91 Men’s Basketball team had one of the finest seasons in Pilot Basketball history. Despite facing tough competition from across the country, the team, which included McDonald’s All-American and now retired NBA superstar Jason Kidd, would compile a 31-3 record, including a 24-game win streak which would catapult them to a ESAL league title and North Coast Section Championship. In the the Northern California Regional Championship, the Pilots took on rival Bishop O’Dowd, beating the Dragons for the fourth time that year to advance to the State Championship game. On March 16, 1991, the Pilots faced off against Fremont High School of Los Angeles at the Oakland Coliseum, defeating Fremont 67-61 to win the State Championship and become the first team in Northern California to win a CIF State Basketball Championship in the modern format. In 1992, the Men’s Basketball team advanced to the State Championship again where they defeated Mater Dei of Santa Ana to become back-to-back champions.