“At the end of the day, you are on the beach. That is a cherry on top, but that was not at the top of why I made my decision.”
That decision Calvin Wishart speaks of was about where he would finish his college basketball career. The beach he was referring to sits on the coast of California on the campus at UC Santa Barbara.
“It’s gorgeous there, but that was near the bottom of my list of reasons,” Wishart reiterated.
Wishart literally had a list of reasons, in the form of a spreadsheet created by his dad, Phil. At the top of the list in most categories was UC Santa Barbara, a mid-major basketball school that annually resides near the top of the Big West Conference standings.
“UCSB blew the other schools away, and, to be honest, it just felt right,” said Wishart, who will be a junior next season.
That feeling is what Wishart and his family were looking for in their recruitment of schools and basketball programs.
“It clicked,” he said. “My parents said, ‘If it feels right and it clicks, do it.’”
Wishart is headed to the west coach after spending his freshman and sophomore seasons at Georgia Southern in Statesboro, GA. “The ‘Boro to the beach” is how Wishart’s father, Phil, describes the move.
Wishart wanted to make his decision soon, and he did just that, choosing to become a Gaucho at UC Santa Barbara just a week after he announced he put his name in the transfer portal. Finding a landing spot quickly avoided any uncertainty, he said.
“The portal is just as competitive as coming out of high school. You have to go for it,” said Wishart.
Wishart spoke for this story from his home in Buffalo just two days after returning home from Georgia Southern, where he is finishing up three more weeks of classes through distance learning.
In a normal year, Wishart would report to college and the basketball team for the first session in early June, and then for the second session in late July or early August. The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 leaves any dates for social gathering up in the air.
Whenever he arrives in Santa Barbara and becomes a Gaucho, Wishart will join a program that has won 21 games the past three seasons under coach Joe Pasternack, including the current season, which was cut short. They finished with a 21-10 record.
The Gauchos were two wins into the Big West Conference tournament, and preparing to play UC Riverside in the quarterfinals March 12 when the season was shut down.
UC Santa Barbara has played in the NCAA Tournament nine times, going 3-6. The Gauchos’ last appearance was in 2011. They lost to Florida in the first round.
Twenty-three Gauchos made their way to the NBA. Brian Shaw (’88) is the most notable alumni.
Knowledge and experience in the NBA is something the coaches and staff at UC Santa Barbara have.
Assistant coach Larry Lewis was an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers after a long professional playing career internationally. And Director of Sports Performance Luke Storey used to be the head strength and conditioning coach for the Orlando Magic.
“There are pro athletes and pro staff at UCSB I will be working with for a year, just to get better,” said Wishart, who expects to red shirt his first season. ”I will be working with one of the best trainers in the country for a whole year. He will be working with me, getting my body stronger.”
Wishart has spoken remotely with the coaches, and received a virtual tour of the campus. He was impressed.
“That Zoom call gave us a good feeling about UCSB,” Wishart said.
The coaches promoted the school and what it offers as much as what basketball will give Wishart.
“I will be getting my degree from one of the best colleges in the country,” he said. “They weren’t just talking about what I can get in three years of basketball, they were talking about what the school can do for me for 50 years.”
Pasternack was an assistant at Arizona for six seasons before taking the head coaching position at UC Santa Barbara. He cut his teeth in college basketball as a four-year manager under Bobby Knight at Indiana.
“Coach Pasternak face-timed me just like he would another player,” Wishart said. “I feel comfortable with him.”
As for red-shirting his first season at Santa Barbara, Wishart is fine with that, as the Gauchos’ top returning guards — JaQuori McLaughlin and Devearl Ramsey — will both be seniors. By the time Wishart is out of his red-shirt situation, those spots will be open for the taking.
“I will have a chance at a big role,” Wishart said.