Undergrads Burton and Santelli awarded Chick Hearn Scholarship at center court of Lakers game

USC Annenberg broadcast journalism students Nicholas Burton and James Santelli were featured on the big screen and at center court of Staples Center on Tuesday night, when they were awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarships in a halftime ceremony. 

Burton and Santelli, both juniors, will receive $5,000 scholarships and the opportunity to interview for internships with Time Warner Cable Sportsnet. Bill Celis, associate director of the School of Journalism, presented the award as the students were introduced to the crowd gathered for the Lakers-Pacers game and Chick Hearn night, which would have been the venerable broadcaster’s 96th birthday.

Both undergrads also were interviewed live by 710 ESPN radio and Time Warner Cable Sportsnet during pregame coverage.  

Santelli, 20, from O’Hara Township, Pa., said being a play-by-play announcer has been a longtime dream.

“I could pull up projects from elementary school to show that even the 10-year-old me wanted to be an announcer. So winning an award with the name of one of the greatest play-by-play voices in sports is incredibly cool. I am proud of the work that I have done at USC Annenberg to get to this point,” he said.

The setting – center court in front of thousands of basketball fans – makes winning the award even more memorable, said Santelli, who is sports director at Neon Tommy, a sports anchor and reporter at ATVN and an on-air personality at KXSC 1560 AM.

“Not many people get to receive an award on the floor at Staples Center, so I count myself as very lucky,” he said.

The Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship, now in its eleventh year, was established with support from the Hearn family, the Lakers and Chick’s many fans in tribute to the legendary announcer. In addition to his more than 40 years with the Lakers, Hearn spent 1956-61 as the announcer for USC Trojan football and basketball games. In 1959, he was inducted into USC’s Skull and Dagger Society as the “Voice of Troy.”

Burton, also 20, hails from San Francisco and is sports director at ATVN and a sports writer at the Daily Trojan. He had never been to a Lakers game before Tuesday night. But he’s familiar, he said, with the legacy of Chick Hearn.

“I am truly honored to even have my name mentioned in the same sentence as someone like Chick Hearn. I don't think there's a single broadcaster in sports who has changed the way we talk about a game like Chick has for basketball,” Burton said. “My favorite aspect of sport is its stories, and when it came to storytelling Hearn was in a class of his own.”

Since 2002, 15 USC Annenberg students have been named scholarship winners. The program aims to continue Hearn’s legacy by giving broadcast journalism students the opportunity to further develop their own unique voices.

Watch their live TV interview