January 31, 2002

Up Close & Personal With Brian Vaka

Jan. 30, 2002

Brian Vaka has become the unquestioned leader of the Santa Clara University men's basketball team in his fourth and final year in a Broncos uniform. He stepped-up following the team's rough start this year and helped propel them back into the mix of the WCC title race. Vaka is currently averaging 5.3 points per contest to go along with 2.3 rebounds. But it is his hustle and defense that provides a spark for the Broncos.

Brian recently sat down with the voice of the Broncos, Dave Lewis, and shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects including his plans for life after basketball on the Mission Campus.

DL: Do you feel comfortable with your role as a leader this year?

BV: "At first I didn't feel comfortable with it because of my personality, but I realized after our tough start that guys were looking for that leader to step up and take charge. It took me a while to step up because in the past I always looked to others for leadership, and now I have no one to look to but myself. But, I think I have now made that adjustment. It's still hard at times, but I think it is necessary for us to continue to improve as a team and it is something that I am working hard to be better at."

DL: What aspects of the game would you like to improve on?

BV: "I need to be more aggressive. I was just thinking about this recently and I realized that I got a whole lot more free-throw attempts as a freshman than I did at the beginning of this year. I am not really sure what changed during those three years, but I know I need to gain some of that aggressiveness back and take the ball to the hole more. I know that my defense is always going to be there. I will always work hard on the defensive side, but I need to find someway to get to the hoop more."

DL: What is a memory or two that stand out in your mind from your time at Santa Clara?

BV: "I would say the Pepperdine game in the WCC Tournament last season. I think everyone will remember that game. I think they had beaten us the previous five times in a row and nobody expected us to win that game. We were down by 19 and to see us come back was tremendous. Last season started off a lot like this season where we struggled a lot early on but we made improvements throughout the year. For us to rally back in that type of environment and win that game was truly something I will never forget. It is probably the best game I have ever been a part of."

DL: Which Santa Clara player have you learned the most from?

BV: "It is really hard to single out just one person because there are a couple of them that were truly instrumental in my growth as a player at Santa Clara. I would have to say Darrell Teat (1998-00) would be one of the guys that helped me along. He sure showed me how to play this game. He is about 6'-3" and could rebound the ball very well for someone who couldn't jump all that well. He was strong and just a competitor. Nathan Fast (1995-00) is another player that I learned from by watching him play. I kind of struggled when he left because of how much he taught me. He was so smart on the floor with his knowledge of where people were and where they were going to be. He always knew his scouting report. The last guy is Brian Jones (1996-01). The important thing I took from BJ is his competitiveness. You just can't say enough good things about him."

DL: What are your career plans following Santa Clara?

BV: "I have a desire to be a counselor after Santa Clara. I had a counselor in high school that was always looking out for me, much like a second mother. I wasn't a bad child, but I did get into some trouble in high school and she was always there to help me sort things out. She was a person that I could talk to about anything. She is the reason I want to be a counselor, to have the chance to impact lives the way she impacted mine."

DL: What things have you learned at Santa Clara that you can take with you after you graduate?

BV: "Everything. Just from the way you carry yourself as a student-athlete, to how you deal with everyday people. I might have some co-workers that I might not like down the road. But the Santa Clara experience prepares you for dealing with other people's opinions and working through those differences to still be productive. That is something that Santa Clara has taught me."