Brian Hendrick: Bringing It Back Home

Sept. 10, 2008

Berkeley - Brian's back.

A contributor to two of the biggest wins for men's basketball since the 1959 championship - beating Indiana in the first round of the 1990 NCAA Tournament and stunning Duke in the second round in 1993 - Brian Hendrick took his English degree from the University of California and challenged himself to play pro basketball overseas.

Ten years and many countries later, Hendrick returned to the States with a successful career to his credit. Now the three-time All-Pac-10 forward is coming back to Berkeley to be welcomed this autumn into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame.

'That kind of blows me away,' Hendrick said about his induction. 'For me to be recognized as one of the better student-athletes, I have no words for it.'

Hendrick was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman squad on the strength of his consistent work ethic and 14.9 ppg in 1990. He was the team MVP in both 1991 and '92, then came back from a knee injury that sidelined much of his junior year to post reliable numbers in the homestretch of the 1992-93 season, including 12 rebounds in the Bears' 82-77 Big Dance win over the Blue Devils.

Hendrick landed in Portugal for his first year abroad as a professional in 1994. 'It was a culture shock, to say the least,' he said. 'But I knew that to make it, you've got to live and enjoy that culture.'

Hendrick signed a one-year contract in Germany the following season. A year later he was in Belgium, then Italy. Hendrick then moved to Asia for a five-year stint in the Japanese Basketball League, joining former teammate Alfred Grigsby for one year and playing against him in another. Other former teammates he had the pleasure of seeing in Asia included forward Andre Reyes and, after moving to China for his final pro season, guard Keith Smith.

Hendrick was always thankful for his Cal experience and the recognition it won him overseas. 'Just by going to Cal, that got me into negotiations because the name was that big, not only as a solid athletic program but for the status it has academically,' he said.

Before leaving Japan, Hendrick met his future wife, Yukie. 'She didn't even know I was a basketball player,' he said. They married in 2005 and expect their first child in December.

After his retirement from basketball, Hendrick earned his teaching credential and accepted a job as special needs teacher before committing to correctional work. Today, at his job in the Soledad Correctional Facility, Hendrick keeps a low profile, but sometimes he can't help his instincts as a player and teacher when he sees talented young inmates who veered off the path to success.

'I don't divulge too much to them, but every once in a while I'll let them know I played and just kind of pick their minds,' said Hendrick, who still stands at No. 7 on Cal's all-time scoring list with 1,556 points and No. 3 in rebounds with 898.

Even better, he's still No. 1 in a lot of Bears fans' hearts, and that should show when Hendrick greets the crowd at halftime of the Oct. 25 Cal-UCLA football game when the Cal Hall of Fame class is introduced.

'I know I'll be smiling,' Hendrick said.

By Anton Malko

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