Monday, January 30, 2006

Caltech Basketball

The Caltech men's basketball team has been in both the L.A. Times and Sports Illustrated recently. The SI article also showed up in the Daily Yomiuri here in Tokyo. Hey, we're famous!

Both articles are sort of bemused looks at a place where being on a sports team doesn't earn you much campus status. Theoretical physics majors who can't dribble, players who shoot with their eyes closed, more high school valedictorians than high school ball players, that kind of humor. But both columnists gave the team (and coach) credit for heart, effort, smart play (which is harder than it sounds), and a reasonably solid D (as in "defense", not "almost failing").

I was on the team when I was student. I'm proud of that, though the other players rolled their eyes when talking about my abilities. I was the worst player on the team, by a large margin. Since the team plays NCAA Div III, and has no depth, I like to claim I was the worst player in all of NCAA basketball. It might be true.

I made the team out of the good grace of the coaches, and because I was willing to show up for practice every day, which some of the other marginal players were not. I was junior varsity the first couple of years, but was privileged to hold down the end of the varsity bench on occasion, and kept stats and shot charts for a while. Basketball was what kept me sane; my grades were actually better during the season than not.

The team we had then had an excellent starting five. Ed Zanelli, Brett Bush, Chris Kyriakakis, Jim Helgren, and Jeff Lester could all shoot, rebound, play D, run the offense, do what it takes. Ed was a fierce competitor, quick and penetrating, seeing the floor the way a point guard should. Chris had beautiful shooting form. Brett was particularly athletic (he pitched for the baseball team, and may have been among the top 100 volleyball players in the country at one point, having been recruited to play at UCLA but choosing Caltech instead, where, yes, he majored in physics), though his six-five frame was overshadowed by many opposing centers. Jim provided muscle, and Jeff quickness on the wing. But it fell off rapidly after the starting five, bottoming out somewhere around me.

Caltech won one NCAA game in the 1970s (against Pomona, I think), then beat LaVerne when I was a student in the mid-1980s. (Rumor has it that both victories resulted in the firing of opposing coaches.) But that's it. Nothing since then. No NCAA victory in 21 years.

But this year, the team has been competitive in several games, losing one by only four points, and there is a building anticipation of victory.

Go, Beavers!


At 12:11 PM, Blogger The Gipper said...

I was actually good friends with Brett Bush in high school and am trying to track him down. Do you know where I can find him? Thanks.
Jason Gipstein

At 4:51 PM, Blogger rdv said...

Sorry, no, I don't...I know he went to Berkeley for grad school, but then I lost track of him.


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