Standing tall at 6’9”, 250 pounds, Saint Mary’s center Brad Waldow doesn’t need a red-and-white striped shirt and beanie to stand out in a crowd.
With an average of 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds a game this season, everyone at Saint Mary’s College has come to recognize this upcoming replacement for big man Omar Samhan. That leaves only one question: Who is this redshirt freshman? In other words, where’s Waldow from?
Waldow grew up in the small town of Shingle Springs, between the busy capital of Sacramento and the snowy slopes of Tahoe. He started his basketball career in sixth grade, at the age of 11, and gradually transformed into a powerful force in the paint as he moved into his high school years as a Ponderosa High School Bruin.
“He really does love the sport, and he’s been growing both in height and ability ever since he started,” says proud father Roger with a laugh.
Filling a varsity position as a freshman, Waldow contributed significantly to the team’s success. In his senior season, he averaged a double-double – an astounding 25.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game – and ranked fifth among all high school centers in California.
“Brad’s a great young man with lots of potential and was definitely a huge factor on the team here at Ponderosa. It’s great to see your players move on to bigger and better things,” says his high school coach, Dave Millholin.“Brad’s doing a great job down there for Saint Mary’s.”
After he earned first-team All-League honors and setting the field goal record for Ponderosa High as a junior and senior, several schools had their sights set on the big man from the small town. Among them were Air Force, UC Davis, Cal Poly-Pomona, Chico State, Eastern Washington, Minnesota, Utah State and, of course, Saint Mary’s College.
“We sat down and evaluated a whole bunch of factors and finally decided that Saint Mary’s was what he was looking for and would be best for him academically and athletically,” says his father.
Brad himself says that besides the quality basketball and coaching at Saint Mary’s, the school has provided exactly what he was looking for academically. “It has small class sizes and you get a lot of interaction with your professors, which is great,” he says.
Working to earn a degree in biophysics and biogenetics, Waldow is a dedicated student athlete, a characteristic that drew head coach Randy Bennett to him. “We are excited to add a person of such high character and talent to our program,” Bennett remarked after signing Waldow. “Brad is an ideal fit for Saint Mary’s both academically and athletically, and with the loss of Omar we felt it was important to add another low post presence to the roster with his class.”
Bennett was right. Waldow has contributed quality minutes throughout his first season, helping to lead the Gaels to their recent outright regular-season WCC title and WCC Tournament title. “It’s been an awesome season. … I’m glad that Coach Bennett gave me the opportunity to be here,” says Waldow. “We’ve got a good group of guys that are dedicated and all work hard, and it feels good to be a part of that.”
Waldow and the Gaels hope to match and even surpass the Cinderella story of two seasons ago, when a last minute bank shot from Mickey McConnell upset number #2 seeded Villanova, moving the Gaels into the Sweet 16. “We have a lot of work to do still, but being in this position, knowing we are in, helps a lot with practices. The guys seem to be much more focused, and you can tell they want it,” says Bennett.
As the Gaels prepare for their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance, Waldow’s hometown fans are donning their 00 jerseys to watch the guy next door play in the “Big Dance.”
“It’s nice to see all the support from people at home,” says Waldow. “I’ll get text and Facebook comments when games are over or the next day from them. But my biggest supporters have always been my parents. They have always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
From the small town of Shingle Springs to the limelight of the NCAA Tournament, one thing is certain: the students and supporters of Saint Mary’s College have found Waldow, and they don’t plan on losing him anytime soon.
By Ryan Meniketti '12 - SMC Sports Journalism Class, Department of Communication