November 13, 2016

Wheeler to the Wildcats

Kevin McCarthy

When you find a true fit, whether it be a job, a residence or a mate, you know it. It's a feel of synchronization, a harmonic match. Ponderosa High's Brennan Wheeler has established just that with his college choice and he'll be a Wildcat next year.

photo of Brian Wheeler

Ranked No. 22 in the NorCalPreps 2017 Top 40, the 6-foot-5 Wheeler signed this week to attend Chico State and play for Coach Greg Clink. Call it a budding summer romance with the relationship cemented in early November.

As Wheeler explained, "In July, we (the EBA Pharaohs) were playing in an AAU game against the Arizona Power, a big, physical team. Lucas Gabriel (the Wildcat head assistant coach) saw me compete against bigger players and liked how I played. I impact games in indirect ways because I'm 6-foot-5 with long arms and I pride myself on defense. I also move well without the ball. I'm a student of the game and take paying attention to details seriously."

Here's EBA Pharaohs Coach Jason Barton on Wheeler: "Brennan has been a part of the Pharaohs organization since he was a sophomore and has worked very hard to become the player he is. He is dedicated to being a student of the game, working in the weight room, and increasing his game, becoming the well-rounded player. He takes as much pride on the defensive side as he does on the offensive side, taking no plays off. He is a great team player and a great person. The Pharaohs organization is very proud of Brennan and he deserves the scholarship from CSU Chico and he'll be a great asset for their program, my alma mater."

On his visit, Wheeler watched a team scrimmage and his take was "I knew I wanted to go there." It was short and energetic, a staple of the Chico Way. He was warmly greeted by the team members plus he also got to talk with the head of the kinesiology department, the area of his projected major.

Wheeler is also aces in the classroom as he currently sports a 3.8 grade point average.

Afterwards, "I returned home and talked to my two high school coaches. I told them how I felt and they gave their blessings." When Clink followed up the visit on the phone, Wheeler gave him the good news.

Working in favor of the Wildcats is also the matter of conference opponents such as Stanislaus State, Sonoma State, Cal State East Bay and Humboldt State where Wildcat away games can still be attended by family and friends.

Asked where he'll be positioned on the court, Wheeler said, "I've had tons of conversation with the [Chico] coaching staff about that. That's another thing I love is the communication from the coaches. If I put in the time and effort, I should be able to contribute at the wing position." Robert Duncan, an All-American selection as well as the California Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year, and recent transfer Michael Bethea, both wing players, depart after this season, so the opportunity is there to work for a spot.

Wheeler thanked "all my coaches, every year" for his basketball development and also noted, "I'm the youngest of five with two older brothers. We played and they railed on me and pushed me to go harder. I'm a pretty physical player and they taught me how to never back down, to keep scratching and fighting."

He recalled his best basketball moment, one of a team effort last year, as "Ponderosa went 20-9 and we were the ninth seed but beat eighth-seeded Nevada Union in the playoffs. We were ahead and the clock was running down. I put my jersey in my mouth, biting it because I was freaking out inside." Ponderosa won 49-38, this after losing to the same team 86-67 back in December.

"The process was really long and I'm happy to get this out of the way. I'm so blessed to be in the position I'm in."