When you think of Saint Mary’s, you think of great guards. Many of them Australian guards. But one of the best Gaels of both the last generation and program history is a big man who could nearly walk to the Moraga campus from home faster than an Aussie could fly there from his home country. Brad Waldow was big, dominant, and powerful, and he has been one of the finest centers the WCC has ever seen.
On paper, Waldow had numbers that coaches drool over coming out of Ponderosa High School in Sacramento, California. During his senior season, he was dominant averaging 25.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. But despite being ranked as the #5 ccenter in California by Scout Inc., Waldow didn’t receive many scholarship offers. But the Gaels saw his potential, and plucked up the local prospect to complement what was a already a team on the rise.
Waldow redshirted his freshman year, but stepped into a starting role as a redshirt freshman, appearing in all 33 games and starting 24 of them. Waldow made an immediate impact as the Gaels won the regular season WCC Championship and reached the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1 block per game on his way to being named to the WCC All-Freshman Team.
The next season, Waldow continued to develop. He was the only underclassman to start every game that season, and his numbers swelled to 10.2 points and 6 rebounds per game as the Gaels again made the NCAA Tournament. He scored a game-high 17 points in their second round loss versus Memphis. Although one of his career highlights came during the WCC Tournament that year when he lost a tooth during a game against San Diego and continued to play, an event that got national attention and even inspired a parody Twitter account.
As a junior, Waldow began to ascend to one of the best centers in the conference. He averaged 15.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, each one ranking him among the top ten in the conference. But life was rough for the Gaels as a team. They had lost anchor Matthew Dellavedova, and they missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Waldow had been there.
With the boost of a couple high-profile transfers to help Waldow in his senior season, big things were expect in 2014-15 for both Waldow and the Gaels. And Waldow delivered in a big way. His 19 points and 9.1 rebounds per game made him just one of two players in the nation to average better than 19 points and 9 rebounds per game, the other being super freshman Jahlil Okafor of Duke. Waldow received a host of awards including being named First Team All-WCC and being named a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award. But after a blazing start to the season, the Gaels faded hard and again fell short of the NCAA Tournament, bowing out at home in the first round of the NIT.
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While the team as a whole regressed during Waldow’s time with Saint Mary’s, Waldow cannot be blamed for that. He was a major bright spot and anchor for the team, and they would not have come close to their level of success in recent years without him. He leaves the school among the all-time top ten in a whopping seven categories including points, rebounds, and blocks. He also leaves as the 22nd highest scoring player in WCC history.
It’s been a meteoric rise in many ways for the big man. From a lightly recruited player to now a legitimate NBA prospect and one of the best centers in conference history. He should get a chance somewhere, and the fact that Dellavedova is helping bring attention to SMC with his play in the NBA Playoffs, the fact that Waldow is a Gael and played alongside him should carry some real weight in professional circles.
But regardless of what happens next, Waldow has been special to watch. A true center is a rare and valuable commodity in modern basketball, and Waldow was one of the best. The Gaels will have a huge challenge replacing him, and we as fans will have a huge challenge finding someone as impressive to watch. With the departure of him and Thomas Van Der Mars of Portland, we will wait and hope for the next great big man to emerge who can go toe-to-toe with the top prospects of BYU and Gonzaga.