Belonging and Basketball— cultivating fellowship on and off the court

Aaron “Wes” Hillmans 70B makes things grow. From nurturing plants in his garden to racking up points on the scoreboard in the late 1960s, Wes has a spirit that encourages progress. Now retired, he cemented his legacy on the basketball court from 1966-1970 as a four-year starter for the Barrington Warriors. Wes is the second player in Barrington history to score over 1,000 points and is among Barrington’s all-time leading rebounders. But for Wes, basketball wasn’t just about scoring points and making plays.

Wes approached basketball as an outlet to decompress. “I spent a lot of time trying to find out what the Lord laid hold of me for,” he remembers. “Basketball became an escape and opportunity to be with a lot of other like-minded people who loved to ball. But what I also learned through basketball was that you were able to go very quickly from ‘me’ to ‘we.'”

Wes is quick to notice parallels between the game he loves and the calling on his life. “Basketball is very much a game where there’s freedom of expression, but you have five individuals who have to be in sync on the basketball court. So it is with spiritual things—you have the body of Christ, and if the body of Christ is not in sync, things go awry.”

Before Barrington and Gordon merged, Wes recalls a heated rivalry between the two schools. “It was a great rivalry,” he remembers. “Gordon had some good teams, and the games were always competitive.”

Beyond basketball for Barrington, Wes served as chairman of the College’s Black Student Union. He was the first recipient of Barrington’s Martin Luther King Grant and was a nominee for “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.” On October 1, 2022, Wes was inducted into the Gordon Hall of Honor for his basketball legacy at Barrington.

Through the lens of experience, Wes encourages current students to seek discernment. “It goes beyond sports, beyond the world of study; it goes to the very life that we as Christians are called to live—a life honoring Christ, whereby we are humbly following him; a life that’s filled with mercy towards others, as he has been merciful towards us.” Embodying the sentiments of Micah 6:8, he advises, “God has shown you what is good, and in showing you what is good, he requires of each one of us is to act justly; to love mercy, being merciful to others; and to walk humbly with our God.”

As a history and political science major, Wes went on to teach high school history with a strong emphasis on the contributions of African Americans. After obtaining his master’s degree in public administration, he transitioned his career to healthcare administration.

As he counts his blessings, Wes recognizes both family and fellowship. “One of my greatest postgraduate blessings—after family, of course—was the opportunity from the Lord to facilitate a home fellowship group that continues to this day.” As in his Barrington basketball days, when coach Jack Augustine transformed a group of individuals from “me” to “we,” Wes has watched the Lord transform a group of racially diverse believers from “they” to “us.”