During the course of California's Sunday elite skills camp, 2018 five-star point guard Brandon Williams asked freshman point guard Charlie Moore -- who's been on campus a matter of weeks -- how much distance was a factor for him, in choosing the Bears. Everyone on campus, and in the locker room, Moore said, has made Berkeley feel like home.
Moore had rehearsed his speech before. He'd given it just a matter of hours earlier, when asked the same question by official visitor Theo John. While Williams hails from Encino (Calif.) Crespi -- under 400 miles away in Southern California -- John was visiting from Champlin, Minn., considerably closer to Moore's Chicago home.
"He's from the Midwest, so we're kind of from the same environment, so he told me about dealing with being that far from home, and the different kind of people, I guess, over in San Francisco," John said. "He said it was a great adjustment. He really hasn't had any problem with really anything, and he's new to campus, too, still being a freshman, but the guys showed him love, showed him around, so that was good to see that."
The only thing that had thrown Moore off, John said, was the weather -- between 70 and 80 degrees for the entire month of August, without a cloud in the sky.
"It was beautiful weather, and they were saying how it was pretty much the same, year-round, so it was a great experience," John said. "They brought me to the campus, kind of showed me around, showed me the academic buildings, showed me where the good food spots were, dorms, apartments, etc. We got to meet all the coaches and training staff, met with some academic people, and then just got to know the players a little bit. Like I said, it was a great experience."
It was a very different experience for John, other than just the people populating the Bay Area environs.
First, he got to chat with former point guard Tyrone Wallace, who's working out in Berkeley before heading home to Bakersfield to spend time with his family before OTA's in Salt Lake City.
"Yeah, I got to meet him a little bit, and we were just talking about what he liked, what he didn't like about Cal," John said. "There wasn't much that he disliked."
John also played two separate rounds of pick-up basketball with the current Bears.
"That was pretty fun, to get up and down and click with them, to see where they're at as a team. It was good times," John said. "After the first time playing with them, I was new to how they stopped screens, how they do help sides, but the second day, it felt natural. I felt like I fit in pretty good with them, playing."
His future position coach -- Tim O'Toole -- also left an impression, with his tireless exuberance. He was the same whirlwind of energy on the official visit as he was during Sunday's camp session -- always on the move, always high-fiving, always enthusiastic, and, apparently, always caffeinated.
"He drinks a lot of coffee," John said. "A lot of coffee. It was crazy. Every time we went out to eat, pretty much, and every meeting, and even at our 8 o'clock steak dinner, he was drinking coffee. It's all good energy, too."
John also got a good energy from head coach Cuonzo Martin.
"My father kind of comes from a similar background; it wasn't as rough [as Martin's East St. Louis upbringing] -- my father grew up in Trinidad and Tobago," John said of his father, who was a bartender on a cruise ship when he met John's mother, moving with her to Minnesota two years before John was born. "It's not the U.S., for sure, but he just reminded me a lot of my dad, in a way, and he's very down-to-earth. That's how I was raised. I like when people are straight-up with me, and straight to the point -- if I'm messing up, they're just going to tell me. I like that."
"Besides the environment, and having the most beautiful campus, I feel like me and coach Cuonzo have a connection, and I feel like he can really push me to be the best I can be," John said. "It was great. It felt like a good fit. We'll see how these next two visits go, and I'll base my decision off of that."
"Every visit, they throw a little something different at you," John said. "This visit, we had some amazing food, got to play with the players a little bit more than usual, and you saw that passion that every one of the coaches there had, and their desire for the players to get better, on and off the court.
"My goal, I would say, is to be done with this process in about a month, just to get that weight off my shoulders before basketball season, and really be able to focus on getting better, and get my teammates better, so we can put up a high school run."null