Brandon Chauca almost didn't make it out to Berkeley for his official visit last week. He originally went on his official to Washington State, and was unsure about whether or not he would wind up continuing on to visit California.
"I think it was pretty much to save a five-hour flight," said the recently-signed point guard. "We were already on the West Coast, so my parents and I discussed it. We really wanted to get a good feel for the schools before we made a final decision. We were already out on the West Coast, so we figured it was only logical to just go down to Cal, right away."
When Chauca and his parents arrived in Berkeley, it wasn't a love-at-first-sight situation. Instead, it took a campus tour from the venerable Mohamed Muqtar that wound up sealing the deal.
"He's been there for a long time. That guy has so much wisdom and intelligence to him," Chauca said. "You really just want to pick at his brain. That really put it over the top for me. He basically told me that every great mind has been through the Bay Area. You can't beat statistics. Statistics don't lie. He was telling me how Einstein and everyone made the first atomic bomb behind the football stadium. He was telling me about the engineering program and about the libraries and about the halls. Basically, the way he described everything to me, was what I wanted. It had everything I wanted."
What Chauca and his family wanted was a blend of academics and athletics, and that's exactly what they found in Berkeley.
"They loved it," Chauca said. "They loved the academic portion, and how it's top-10 in business, top-five in the U.S. They think it's perfect for my future. They can build me up to either become an NBA player or a very successful person in business."
"I looked it up, and it's more than 50 percent Asian," Chauca said. "That tells me that they're going to come out to the games. I feel like I can bring a different type of environment to the game, because I feel like more people will want to come because I'm Filipino, and I'm only the 10th Filipino to play Division I, and only the second Filipino to play high-major Division I. My Hispanic side, I'm the first Peruvian to ever play NCAA basketball, in any division. It's kind of like making history. I think it'll be kind of cool, and it'll also help out Cal Basketball, in general, just getting people out to the games."
Chauca takes a lot of pride in his heritage, particularly about the fact that he will be a trailblazer of sorts when it comes to playing Division I basketball.
"Filipino's are known for being short, not very athletic -- kind of quick, but we're not known for making Division I basketball," Chauca said. "We're known for knowing the game and being fans of the game, but no one ever really makes it, because we're so short. The only ones that have really made it are over 6-2. I'll be the first to make it under 6-2."
Chauca may be short on height – at 5-foot-9 – but he's long on numbers. As a senior at 22 Feet Academy of the Shannon Forest Christian School in Greenville, S.C., Chauca averaged 23.1 points, 7.4 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game. He shot better than 60% from the field, and 49% from three-point range, posting two 40-point games and recording nearly 10 double-doubles as a senior.
He's also a stud in the classroom, posting a 4.5 GPA in the fall semester. Academics were a large part of his decision to sign with the Bears.
"[Berkeley is] well-known worldwide, and I know it's ranked as the No. 1 public school in the country, in terms of academics, and that goes a long way, especially with me," Chauca said. "The most important thing for me is the academic aspect, and being at Cal, I noticed that it's very different from any campus in the country, from my perspective, because at Cal, it's very diverse. It's very multicultural. It's really different than a lot of places. You don't feel out of place. You don't feel like an outcast. You feel like you belong. You just feel very free. I understand it's a liberal school, and it feels like you have a lot of freedom to be yourself, and just really succeed in your own way."
Chauca will start that path to success when he begins summer school on June 23, a prospect which gave him reason to reflect on one of the coaches who got him to this point: Ro Russell.
"He's probably one of the best people I've ever met in my life," Chauca said. "He's really helped me out a lot. Some people say there's been controversy with him, but he's very Christian. He's never done anything negative with me. Everything he's done, he's helped me in recruiting, skill-wise, he's put hundreds of players in Division I, right behind Boo Williams. The thing about him, he doesn't ask anything in return. That's the kind of person you want to surround yourself with, people that will go out and break their back for you and not ask anything in return. That's great."
IN-DEPTH: Chauca Talks Cal's Multiculturalism
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