New Hire Already Paying Five-Star Dividends

Hufnagel's relationship-building brings the Bears into the orbit of one of the top players in the 2016 class, according to his father.

Three days ago, California was not in the mix for 2016 five-star point guard Derryck Thornton Jr.. Then the Bears hired Yanni Hufnagel.

"Yanni Hufnagel is a very close friend," said Derryck Thornton, Sr. "He's a dear friend. I've known him for about four years."

Hufnagel has been recruiting Thornton, Jr., since he was back at Harvard, and continued to do so while he was at Vanderbilt. Now, Hufnagel will be recruiting the 6-foot-2, 165-pounder out of Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep (the Thorntons recently moved to Las Vegas from Simi Valley, Calif.) to Berkeley.

"Yanni is such a good person," Thornton, Sr., said. "He's also a damn good coach. It immediately brings Cal to the forefront, with the hiring. I think he's a great guy, but more than anything else, I trust him, and as a father, you want to send your son to go with coaches that you trust."

Hufnagel has earned a reputation as an ace recruiter over the past five years, and according to Thornton, Sr., it's because of how genuine Hufnagel is when it comes to forming relationships with players and their families, something that he's done on the West Coast, primarily.

"You know what it is? Yanni's genuine," Thornton, Sr., said. "Most of these guys come off liked used car salesmen. Yanni is one of the very few genuine people in coaching, where when he says it, he means it. It comes across as such, and I can respect and appreciate that."

The Thorntons are just starting to get to know Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin, but the new Cal skipper has made quite an impression already, even before Hufnagel got the gig.

"He is super charismatic," Thornton, Sr., said. "But, he's very humble. He has big goals for the school, for the basketball program, but he has a different approach than most coaches I've dealt with so far. He comes off really humble -- confident, very confident, but humble. You can tell he wants to win, and that, if he's in a great situation, he'll be able to win."

Thornton and his son will be visiting Cal "within the next month," and both are very anxious to see the campus and meet with the coaches in person.

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