SAN DIEGO — While the Aztecs men’s basketball team lost Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel to the NBA Draft, you can still expect a solid squad this year.
With returning players like Trey Pulliam and Nathan Mensah, it’s safe to say they have a good chance at making another appearance in the NCAA Tournament. If that isn’t enough reason to cheer on the Aztecs, here’s another: 6-foot, 7-inch tall transfer wing Chad Baker-Mazara.
The Dominican Republic native brings his talents to America’s finest city, hoping to help San Diego State achieve their ultimate goal: a national championship.
“I say this all the time, I won a ring in high school. I’m trying to get one in college, too,” Baker-Mazara said. “I feel with San Diego State this year, we have all the pieces to get there.”
The incoming Aztec makes his way to San Diego after a year at Duquesne University, where he averaged 9.5 points per game and shot close to 42% from the three-point line. All it took was that one season for the star player to realize the program wasn’t the right fit for him.
“The season went not as we expected,” Baker-Mazara said. “We thought it was going to go way better than that, but we didn’t find that connection as a team. I’m not just talking player-wise, I’m talking coaching-wise too. During the off-season, there were a lot of weird, different moves that I personally didn’t like.”
Leaving was a decision that made Baker-Mazara’s family nervous.
“At first my dad was a little mad at me because I entered the portal,” Baker-Mazara said. “He was like, ‘No, what’re you doing? Stay there.’”
Hoping his son made the right decision, Baker-Mazara’s father Derek was looking out for him from a professional coach’s standpoint too, something the father of two has done since he ended his 12-year professional playing career.
“I told [my dad] one day, I just wanted to hoop. That’s what I love to do. And his smile was from here to here,” Baker-Mazara said. “He said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. When you told me you wanted to play basketball, I took the deepest breath. I was like, ‘Oh, thank God.’”
Derek didn’t have to worry about his son for long. His best friend Evan Brock, who Baker-Mazara knows as his uncle, showed off his highlights, catching the eyes of JD Pollock, Aztecs’ director of player development.
“You know when you go somewhere, it’s not, ‘OK, I can just go there?’ It’s where you feel needed, kind of,” Baker-Mazara said. “Obviously, I felt that connection, just through texts with the coaches. And I felt like they really wanted me here, so that was a big thing. Plus, I got family out there – that helps me a lot and weather stuff. I was tired of that cold weather, I’m going to be honest.”
Baker-Mazara was soaking up the sun in the Dominican Republic as he visited family. The incoming Aztec said he expects to arrive in San Diego on Aug. 2. He even has a special calendar for it, checking off the days until he’s here.