Jan. 31, 2002
By Bruce Martinez
The Santa Clara Sports Editor
He's a freewheeling, fast-moving, free spirit. He has the court presence of a battle-toughened veteran and a magnetic persona rarely seen on the basketball court.
Freshamn Bakari Altheimer, straight out of tiny St. Elizabeth's in Oakland, is the future of Bronco basketball and he doesn't seem to mind.
Even after struggling some in the preseason, Altheimer has responded well in conference, averaging 16 minutes a game and playing heavy minutes at the point guard slot. He is responsible for initiating the offense and getting the Broncos open looks. This is a tough role for any freshman to take on, but it is even tougher considering the complex flex offense Dick Davey's Broncos use.
"Playing the point in college is a lot to remember," Altheimer said. "My high school ran a more wide open offense then here at Santa Clara. We ran three out, two in - that's three guards and two post players. We were a very quick team. College is more structured so I just try to go out and learn everyday. Coach Davey is a real stickler for effort, as long my effort is there, he'll be happy."
Altheimer played at St. Elizabeth's, a small, Catholic high school where he led his team to an improbable state title game berth. He averaged 22 points, four assists, four boards and three steals a game. While doing all this for the Division V Mustangs, Altheimer competed against some of the best college players in the country, including Kansas' Drew Gooden and UCLA's Ray Young.
"Our league was extremely tough," Altheimer said. "We played a lot of Division I teams in the preseason, including Oakland Tech and Modesto Christian, who eventually lost in the state title game to Mater Dai. It was extremely fun playing high school basketball against the toughest competition and I'll never regret it."
All this stiff competition must have sunk in because Altheimer was at his best in the Broncos toughest, and to date, best game of the season, an 83-81 loss at Gonzaga. In that game Altheimer played 15 minutes including several stretches in the second half guarding Dan Dickau, a Wooden award candidate. This match up seemed to be heavily in Bulldogs favor but Bac, as his teammates call him, matched Dickau step for step and more then held his own.
"It was amazing playing Gonzaga, a real treat. I'm a confident player and I respect Dan Dickau as a player but I don't fear him, when you fear a guy, that's when he can beat you," Altheimer said. "I'm from Oakland and in Oakland I played against guys that would beat you up for just staring at em' wrong."
All this solid play has led many Bronco fans to be very excited about the young squads prospects. With freshman, Jordan Legge, excelling as a starter and sophomore, Kyle Bailey, playing up to his usual high standard the future looks bright. Adding Altheimer's enthusiasm, hustle, flair and desire to the mix can only help take things to another level.
"If we continue to improve and if we play well together, Kyle and I can be a dynamic duo in a couple of years, or maybe at the end of this year Kyle and I will be playing extremely well together," Altheimer said. "He's one of the best point guards on the west coast, and maybe together we can make a run at big things."
Most importantly, Altheimer has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches. His work ethic, intensity and eagerness to improve has endeared him to those around him.